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3 1924 088 418 466 

Cornell University 

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the Cornell University Library. 

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(Through the courtesy of Doctor Ahmad Khan.) 

History is a mirror of the past 
And a lesson for the present. 

A Persian Pro<verb. 

''^K'-Hivd bv OlieavVv 


(From an original Persian painting.) 

(From Sir John Malcolm's History of Persia.) 




C.M.G., CLE. 






(From Br. Museum.) 






Part of a Persian Hunting Scene. 
(From a Silver Vase in the Hermitage Museum.) 



The Early Career of Mohamed at Mecca . 

A Description of Arabia — The Importance of Mecca — The 
Ancient Religion of the Arabs — The Kaaba — The Ancestors of 
the Prophet Mohamed — The Political Situation in Arabia before 
and after the Birth of the Prophet — The Childhood, Youth, and 
Early Manhood of Mohamed — The Divine Commission conveyed 
by Gabriel — The Assumption of the Prophetical Office, a.d. 613- 
614 — The Temporary Emigration to Abyssinia, a.d. 615. 




The Flight to Medina and the Establishment of Islam 

The Hijra, or " Flight,'^ to Medina, a.d. 622 — The Erection 
of the First Mosque at Medina — The Breach with the Jews — The 
Battle of Badr, a.h. 2 (623), and the Expulsion of the Beni Kainu- 
cas — The Battle of Ohod, a.h. 3 (625), and the Expulsion of the 
Beni Nazir — The Siege of Medina and the Massacre of the 
Beni Koreitza, a.h. 5 (627) — The Truce of Hodeibia, a.h. 6 (628) 
— The Embassies sent by Mohamed, a.h. 7 (628) — The Conquest 
of Khaybar, a.h. 7 (628)— The "Fulfilled Pilgrimage," a.h. 7 
(629) — The Battle of Muta, a.h. 8 (629) — The Capture of Mecca, 
a.h. 8 (630) — The Last Campaign of Mohamed, a.h. 9 (630) — 
The Final Orders of the Prophet — The " Farewell Pilgrimage," a.h. 
10 (630) — The Death of Mohamed, a.h. ii (632)— His Character 
— The Koran. 





Islam under the First Four Caliphs . . • - ^S 

The Period of the Caliphate, a.d. 632-1258— The Genealogical 
Table of the Kureish — The Election of Abu Bekr— The Re- 
bellions, A.H. II (632)— The Battle on the Yermuk, a.h. 13 (634) 
—The Death of Abu Bekr and the Accession of Omar, a.h. 13 
(534)_The Capture of Damascus, a.h. 14 (635)— The Capture of 
Antioch and the Capitulation of Jerusalem, a.h. 15 (636)— The 
Conquest of Egypt, a.h. 19-20 (640-641)— The Assassination of 
Omar, a.h. 23 (644)— The Accession of Othman, a.h. 24 (644)— 
The Expansion of Islam to the West, a.h. 25-31 (646-652)— The 
Campaigns in Persia, a.h. 31 (652)— The Murder of Othman, a.h. 
35 (656) — The Election of Ali, a.h. 35 (656) — Muavia, the 
Governor of Syria— The Proclamation of War against Muavia by 
Ali, A.H. 35 (656)— The Battle of the Camel, a.h. 36 (656)— The 
Battle of Siffin, a.h. 37 (657)— The Arbitration, a.h. 37 (658)— 
The Kharijites— The Last Years of All's Caliphate— His Assassina- 
tion, A.H. 40 (661)— His Character— The Position of Persia. 


The Tragedy of Kerbela . . . . -39 

The Accession of Hasan and his Abdication, a.h. 40 (661) — 
The Death-bed Warning of Muavia to Yezid, a.h. 61 (680) — The 
Invitation to Husayn from the Inhabitants of Kufa — The March 
on Kufa — The Tragedy — The Journey to Damascus and the 
Return to Medina — The Passion Plays — The Historical Basis of 
the Shia Sect — Its Religious Basis and Doctrines. 


Persia a Province of the Omayyad Caliphate . . 47 

The Omayyad Dynasty — The Position of Muavia strengthened 
by the Adherence of Zlad — Moslem Progress in the East — The 
Power and Prosperity of Muavia — Yezid declared Heir- Apparent, 
a.h. 56 (676), and his Succession in a.h. 61 (680) — The Reoellion 
of Ibn Zobayr, a.h. 61 (680) — The Bokhara Campaign — The 
Campaign of the Northern Beduin against the Southern Beduin, 
A.H. 46-65 (666-685) — The Divisions in the Caliphate, a.h. 61- 
73 (680-692) — The Massacre of the Enemies of Husayn, a.h. 66 
(685) — The Azrakites — The Rebellion of Ibn-al-Ashath, a.h. 80 
(699) — The Rebellion of Musa ibn Khazim — Death and Char- 
acter of Abdul Malik — The Campaigns in Central Asia, a.h. 86- 
96 (705-714) — The Advance to the Indus, a.h. 89-96 (707-714) 
— The Achievements of Welld, a.h. 86-96 (705-714) — The 
Campaigns of Yezid in Gurgan and Tabaristan, a.h. 98 (716) — 



Khorasan under the Caliphate of Omar II., a.h. 99-101 (717-720) 
— The Reign of Yezid II., a.h. 101-105 (720-724) — The Abbasid 
Propaganda — The Rebellion of Zayd, a.h. 122 (740) — The 
Caliphate of Hisham, a.h, 105-125 (724-743) — Welid II. and 
Yezid III., A.H. 125-126 (743-744) — The Rebellion of Ibn Muavia, 
A.H. 126-129 (744-747) — The Raising of the Black Standard 
in Khorasan, A.H. 129 (747) — The Battle of the Great Zab, a.h. 
132 (750) — The Condition of Persia under the Omayyad Dynasty. 


Persian Ascendancy in the Early Abbasid Period . . 61 

The End of Moslem Unity — The Accession of Abul Abbas, 
A.H. 132 (749) — The Massacre of the Omajryads — The Reign of 
Abul Abbas and his Death, a.h. 136 (754) — Abu Jafar, Mansur, 
A.H. 136-158 (754-775) — The Execution of Abu MusUm, a.h. 137 
(754) — The Rebellions in Persia, a.h. 138 (756), and a.h. 141-143 
(758-760) — The Ravandis, a.h. 141 (758) — The Rebellion of the 
Descendants of Hasan, a.h. 144 (761) — The Foundation of 
Baghdad, a.h. 145 (762) — The Rising at Herat, a.h. 150 (767) — 
Persian Influence under Mansur — Mehdi, a.h. 158-169 (775-785) 
— The Veiled Prophet of Khorasan, a.h. 158-161 t774-777) — 
Hadi, A.H. 169-170 (785-786). 


The Golden Age of Islam . . . . .68 

The Splendour of Haroun-al-Rashid, a.h. 170-193 (786-809) 
— The Hasanite Prince of Daylam, a.h. 176 (792) — The Downfall 
of the Barmecides — The Death of Haroun-al-Rashid, a.h. 193 (809) 
— Amin and Mamun, a.h. 193-198 (808-813) — Mamun pro- 
claimed Caliph of the East, a.h. 196 (811) — The Campaigns of 
Tahir the Ambidextrous and the Death of Amin — Rebellions in 
the Western Half of the Caliphate, a.h. 198-201 (813-816) — The 
Proclamation of Ali Riza as Heir-Apparent, a.h. 201 (817) — His 
Sudden Death, a.h. 203 (818) — Tahir, Viceroy of the East, a.h. 
204-207 (819-822) — The Later Years of Mamun and his Death,. 
A.H. 218 (833) — The Arts, Science, and Literature under Mamun 
— Moslem Exploration and Geography — The Mutazila Sect — 
Motasim, a.h. 218-227 (833-842) — The Mamelukes and the 
Founding of Samarra — The Revolt of the Jatt or Gypsies — The- 
Capture of Babek, a.h. 222 (837) — The Campaign against the 
Greeks, a.h. 223 (83S) — The Later Years of Motasim's Reign — 
Wathik, a.h. 227-232 (842-847). 


The Decay of the Caliphate and the Revival of Persian 

Independence . . . . . .82 

The Orthodox Reaction under Mutawakkil, a.h. 232-247 (847- 
861) — The Palace of Samarra and the Cypress of Kishmar — The 
Tahiri Dynasty, a.h. 205-259 (820-872) — A Period of Anarchy, 

VOL. II b 



A.H. 247-256 (861-870) — The Rise of the Saffar Dynasty— 
Motamid, a.h. 256-279 (870-892)— The Zanj Insurrection, a.h. 
255-270 (869-S83) — The Brilliant Career of Vakub bin Lais^ — 
The Origin of the Ismaili Sect— The Carmathians — ^The Rise of 
the Samanid Dynasty — The Career of Amr-ul-Lais, a.h. 265-290 
(87S-903) — The Samanid Dynasty at its Zenith — Its Decay and 
Downfall— The Ziyarid Dynasty, a.h. 316-43+ (928-1042)- The 
Buwayhid or Daylamite Dynasty, a.h. 320-447 (932-1055) — The 
Dynasty of Ghazna, a.h. 351-582 (962-1186). 


The Coming of the Seljuk Turks . . . .98 

The Importance of the Seljuks — Their Origin — Masud of 
Ghazna — The Founding of the Seljuk Dynasty, a.h. 429 (1037) 
— The Career of Toghril Beg, a.h. 429-455 (1037-1063) — Malik 
KaAS'ard of Kerman, a.h. 433-465 (1041-1072) — Alp Arslan, a.h. 
455-465 (1063-1072) — The Seljuk Empire at its Zenith under 
Malik Shah, a.h. 465-485 (1072-1092) — The Downfall of the 
Nizam-ul-Mulk — The Death of Malik Shah, a.h. 485 (1092) — 
The Assassins — The Fatimid Dynasty, a.h. 297-567 (909-1171) 
—The Career of Hasan Sabbah— "The Old Man of the Mountain" 
— The Initiation of the Devotees — Mahmud, a.h. 485 (1092) ; 
Barkiyaruk, a.h. 487 (1094) ; Malik Shah II., a.h. 498 (1104) ; 
Mohamed, a.h. 498-511 (1104-1117) — The Seljuks of Kerman, 
a.h. 433-583 (1041-1187) — The Origin of the Crusades — ^The First 
Crusade, a.d. 109 5- 1099 — The Defeat of the First Armv by the 
Seljuks — The Capture of Nicaea and of Antioch by the Crusaders 
— The Storming of Jerusalem, a.h. 492 (1099). 


The Disruption of the Seljuk Empire . . .118 

Sultan Sanjar at the Height of his Fame — An Episode of the 
Assassins — The Ghorid Dynasty, a.h. 543-612 (114S-1215) — The 
Rise of the Shahs of Khwarazm — The Kara Khitai Dynasty — The 
Defeat of Sultan Sanjar by the Kara Khitai, a.h. 536 (1141) — The 
Capture of Sultan Sanjar by the Ghuzz, a.h. 548 (11 5 3) — The 
Atrocities committed by the Ghuzz — Their Ravages in the Kerman 
Province — The Escape and Death of Sultan Sanjar, a.h. 552 
(1157) — His Character — The Revival of the Caliphate — The 
Khwarazm Dynasty at its Zenith — The Atabegs — The End of a 
Great Period. 


Persian Literature before the Mongol Invasion . 130 

The Birth of Persian Literature — Rudagi — Al-Biruni — 
Avicenna — Firdausi — The Siasat-Nama — Nasir-i-Khusru — Omar 
Khayyam — The Kabus-Nama — Al-Ghazali — Muizzi — Nizami- 
al-Arudi — Anwari and Khakani — Nizami — Attar — A Criticism. 




The Mongol Cataclysm . . , . '144 

The Awful Nature of the Mongol Invasion — The Origin of 
the Mongols — Yissugay, the Father of Chengiz Khan — The Rise 
of Chengiz Khan, a.d. i 175-1206 — The Downfall of the Kara 
Khitai Dynasty — The Mongol Invasion of Turkestan, a.h. 615 
(121 8) — The Outbreak of Hostilities with Khwarazm — The In- 
vasion of Transoxiana, a.h. 616 (12 19) — The Pursuit of Mohamed 
and his Death, a.h. 617 (1220) — The Siege of Urganj, a,h. 617 
(1220) — The Devastation of Khorasan, a.h. 617 (1220) — The 
Destruction of Merv and Nishapur — The Capture of Herat — 
The Campaign against Jalal-u-Din, a.h. 618 (1221) — The Return 
to Tartary of Chengiz Khan — The Devastation of Western and 
North-Western Persia — The Death of Chengiz Khan, a.h. 624. 
(1227) — His Character and Genius. 


The Extinction of the Caliphate by Hulagu Khan . 162 

The Division of the Mongol Empire — Three Great Expedi- 
tions — The Campaign of Jalal-u-Din in India, a.h. 619 (1222) — 
His Return to Persia, a.h. 620 (1223) — Ghias-u-Din — The Cam- 
paign against the Caliph, a.h. 622 (1225) — The Battle of Isfahan, 
a.h. 625 (1228) — The Single Combats of Jalal-u-Din — His Escapes 
from the Mongols and his Death, a.h. 628 (1231) — The Mongol 
Campaigns in Asia Minor and Syria — The Kutlugh Khans of 
Kerman, a.h. 619-703 (1222-1303) — Christian Missions to the 
Mongols, A.D. 1 245-1 253 — The Administration of Northern Persia 
before Hulagu Khan — The Appointment of Hulagu Khan to 
Persia, a.h. 649 (1251) — The Dynasty of t^he Assassins at its 
Zenith — The Extirpation of the Assassins, a.h. 654 (1256) — The 
Sack of Baghdad and the Execution of the Caliph, a.h. 6^6 (1258) 
— The Last Years of Hulagu Khan and his Death, a.h. 663 


The Heathen Il-Khans of Persia . . . - ^77 

Abaga, A.H. 663-680 (i 265-1 281) — The Invasion from Russia, 
A.H. 664 (1266) — Hayton, King of Armenia and Baybars of Egypt, 
A.H. 66^-66$ (1266-1267) — The Invasion of Khorasan by Borak, 
A.H. 668 (1270) — Yusuf Shah I., Atabeg of Luristan — The Devas- 
tation of Khwarazm and Transoxiana by Abaga, a.h. 671 (1272) 
— The Battle of Abulistin, a.h. 675 (1277) — The Battle of Hims, 
a.h. 680 (1281) — The Intercourse of Abaga with Europe — The 
Journey of Marco Polo in Persia, a.d. 1271 — Ahmad, a.h. 680-683 
(1281-1284) — The Reign of Arghun, a.h. 683-690 (1284-1291) 
— John de Monte Corvino — Gaykhatu, a.h. 690-694 (1291-1295), 
and Baydu, a.h. 694 (1295) — The Return of Marco Polo to Persia, 
A.D. 1294* 




Ghazan Khan, the Great Il-Khan . . . .188 

The Accession of Ghazan, a.h. 694 (1295) — His First Syrian 
Campaign, a.h. 699 (1299)— The Raiding of Southern Persia from 
Transoxiana — The Defeat of the Mongols in Syria, a.h. 702 
(1303) — The Relations of Ghazan with Byzantium and the 
Western Powers — His Reforms — His Buildings and Endowments 
— Uljaitu, a.h. 703-716 (1304.-1316) — Abu Said, a.h. 716-736 
(13 1 6-1 335) — The Puppet Il-Khans — The Jalayr Dynasty, a.h. 
736-814(1336-1411) — TheMuzaffarids,A.H. 713-795(1313-1393) 
— The Karts of Herat, a.h. 643-791 (i 245-1 389). 


Tamerlane . . . . . . .196 

Transoxiana in the Middle of the Fourteenth Century — The 
Fame of Tamerlane — His Birth in a.h. 736 (1335) and his Early 
Years — His Submission to Tughluk Timur Khan — His Early 
Wanderings — Tamerlane or "Timur the Lame" — The Rallying 
of his Relations and Adherents — The Campaigns with Khoja Ilias 
— The Struggle between Tamerlane and Amir Husayn, a.h. 767- 
771 (1365-1369) — The Conquest of Jatah and of Khwarazm, a.h. 
771-782 (i 369-1380) — The Surrender of Herat, a.h. 782 (1380) 
— The Siege of Kalat-i-Nadiri and of Turshiz — The Sistan Cam- 
paign, A.H. 785 (1383) — The Campaign in Northern Persia, a.h. 
786 (1384) — The Campaign in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Fars, 
A.H. 788-790 (1386-1388) — Tamerlane and Hafiz — The Cam- 
paigns with Toktamish, a.h. 790-793 (i 388-1 391) — The Campaign 
in Fars and Irak, a.h. 794-795 (i 392-1 393) — The Siege of Takrit, 
A.H. 796 (1393) — The Second Campaign in Russia, a.h. 797 (1394) 
— The Invasion of India, a.h. 800-801 (i 398-1 399) — The Cam- 
paign against the Mamelukes, a.h. 803 (1401) — The Defeat of 
Bayazid, a.h. 804 (1402) — The Castilian Embassy to the Court of 
Samarcand — The Death of Tamerlane, a.h. 807 (1405) — His 
Character and Achievements. 


The Timurid Monarchs of Persia . . . .216 

Khalil Sultan, a.h. 807-812 (1404-1409)— Shah Rukh, a.h. 
807-850 (1404-1447) — Ulugh Beg, the Astronomer-King— Abu 
Said, a.h. 855-872 (1452-1467)— The Last Princes of tlie Timurid 
Dynasty— The "Black Sheep" Dynasty, a.h. 780-874 (i 378-1469) 

— The "White Sheep" Dynasty, a.h. 780-908 (1378-1502) 

The Alliance of Uzun Hasan with Venice — The Rise of the Shay- 
banid Dynasty— Baber— The Literary and Scientific Attainments 
of the Timurid Dynasty. 




•Literature and Architecture under the Mongols . .225 

The Historians of the Early Mongol Period — The Later 
Historians — Yakut, the Geographer — Nasir-u-Din, the Philosopher 
and Man of Science — The Sufis or Mystics — Jalal-u-Din, Rumi 
— Sadi — Hafiz — Jami — The Tomb of Khudabanda at Sultania — 
The Shrine of the Imam Riza — The Mosque of Gauhar Shad — 
The Madrasa at Khargird — The Mahun Shrine. 


The Rise of the Safavi Dynasty .... 240 

The Ancestors of the Safavi Dynasty — Ismail, the Founder of 
the Dynasty, a.h. 905-930 (1499-1524) — The Defeat of the Uzbegs 
by Shah Ismail, a.h. 916 (15 10) — Shah Ismail and Baber — The 
Final Defeat of Baber by the Uzbegs, a.h. 918 J[i5i2) — The 
Campaign of Selim the Grim, a.h. 920 (15 14) — The Death of Shah 
Ismail and his Character — Tahmasp, a.h. 930-984 (15 24-1 576) — 
The Invasions of Persia by Sulayman the Magnificent — The Fugi- 
tive Emperor Humayun — The Rebellion of Ilkhas Mtrza, a.h. 
954-955 (1547-1548) — The Perso-Turkish Treaty of Peace, a.h. 
962 (1555) — The Betrayal of Bayazid, son of Sulayman — The 
Embassies of Anthony Jenkinson to Bokhara and Persia, a.d. 
1558-1563 — An Account of Persia by D'Alessandri, a.d. 1571 — 
Ismail II., A.H. 984 (1576) — Mohamed Khudabanda, a.h. 985 


Shah Abbas the Great . . . .256 

Shah Abbas I., a.h. 985-1038 (1587-1629) — The Turkish 
Invasion, a.h. 995-998 (1587-1590) — The Uzbeg Invasions — The 
Temporary Abdication, a.h. iooo (1591) — The Arrival in Persia 
of the Sherley Brothers, a.d. 1598 — The Reorganization of the 
Persian Army — The Formation of the Shah Savan Tribe — Sir 
Anthony Sherley as Ambassador — The Successful Campaigns 
against Turkey, a.h. 1011-1036 (i 602-1 627) — The Embassies 
of Sir Robert Sherley — The Administrative Genius of Shah Abbas 

' His Encouragement of Pilgrimages — His Domestic Life — His 

Death and Character. 


The Struggle for Ascendancy in the Persian Gulf . 269 

The Effect on History of Rounding the Cape of Good Hope 
—The Importance of Hormuz— The First Portuguese Expedition 


against Hormuz, a.d. 1507— The Persian Demand for Tribute— 
The Failure of the Expedition— The Final Occupation of Hormuz 
by the Portuguese, a.d. 15 15— The Beginning of English Maritime 
Intercourse with the East— The First English Attempt to Trade 
with Persia by Sea, a.d. 16 14 — The Journey of Connock, a.d. 
1616-1617— The Persian Question of the Period— The Spanish 
Embassy to Persia, 161 8-1 61 9— The Battle of Jask, a.d. 1620— The 
Capture of Hormuz by an Anglo-Persian Expedition, a.d. 1622 — 
The Dutch— The French— The Embassy of Sir Dodmore Cotton 
to Shah Abbas, a.d. 1627— The Fortunes of the British. 



Architecture and Art vnder the Safavi Dynasty . . 284 

Isfahan, the Safavi Capital — The Royal Square — The 
Royal Mosque — The Ala Kapi — The Chehel Sutun — The 
Chahar Bagh — The Madrasa-i-Shah Husayn — The Bridge of 
Allah Verdi Khan— Tiles— Pottery— Carpets— Painting— Metal 


The Decline of the Safavi Dynasty . . . 296 

The Cause of the Decline — Shah Safi, a.h. 1038-1052 (1629- 
1642) — The Holstein Embassy, 1637 — The Uzbegs — The Cap- 
ture of Hamadan by the Turks, a.h. 1039 (1630) — The Erivan 
Campaign, a.h. 1045 (1635) — The Capture of Baghdad, a.h. 
1048 (1638) — Abbas II., A.H. 1052-1077 (1642-1667) — The 
Uzbeg Refugees — The First Russian Embassy to Persia, a.d. 1664 
— Sulayman, a.h. 1077-1105 (1667-1694) — The Accession of 
Shah Sultan Husayn, a.h. 1105 (1694) — The Embassies of Peter 
the Great, a.d. 1708 and 17 15 — The Failure in the Persian 


The Ghilzais of Kandahar . . , 305 

A Sketch of Afghanistan — Its Inhabitants — The Province of 
Kandahar — The Ghilzais — The Appointment of Gurgin Khan — 
Mir Vais — The Murder of Gurgin Khan and the Massacre 
of the Persian Garrison, a.h. 1121 (1709) — The Consolidation of 
Power by Mir Vais — His Two Victories over Persian Armies — 
Mir Abdulla, a.h. 1128-1130 (1715-1717) — The Rise of the 
Abdalis of Herat. 




The Overthrow of the Safavi Dynasty . . .312 

The First Expedition of Mahmud, a.h. 1133 (1720) — The 
Disgrace of the Vizier and of Lutf Ali Khan — Signs and Portents 
— The Second Expedition of Mahmud, a.h. 1135 (1722) — The 
Afghan and Persian Armies — The Battle of Gulnabad, a.h. 1135 
(1722) — The Capture of Farrahabad and the Capitulation of Julfa 
— The Investment of Isfahan — The Heroic Inhabitants of Ben 
Isfahan — The Ujmsuccessful Mission of Tahmasp Mirza — The 
Death of the White Eunuch— Malik Mahmud of Sistan — The 
Surrender of Isfahan, a.h. 1135 (1722) — The Downfall of the 


The Expulsion of the Afghans . . . .321 

The First Acts of Mahmud — The Surrender of S^um, Kashan 
andKazvin to the Afghans — The Will of Peter the Great: — The Cap- 
ture of Derbent by Peter, a.h. i i 35 (1722) — His Occupation of Resht 
and Baku, a.d. 1723 — The Treaty of Shah Tahmasp with Russia, 
A.D. 1723 — The Persian Insurrection at Kazvin, a.h. 1136 (1723) 
— The Massacres at Isfahan, a.d. 1723 — The Capture of Shiraz, 
A.H. 1137 (1724) — An Attack on Bandar Abbas — Afghan Intrigues 
— The M[assacre of the Safavi Princes — The Death of Mahmud, 
A.H. 1 137 (1725) — His Appearance and Character — The Turkish 
Invasion of Georgia, A.D. 1 722-1 723 — The Russo-Turkish Treaty 
for the Dismemberment of Persia, a.d. 1724 — The Conquest of 
Western Persia by the Turks, a.d. i 724-1 725-^The Accession of 
Ashraf, a.h. 1137 (1725) — The Victory of Ashraf over the Turks, 
A.H. 1 1 38 (1726) — Shah Tahmasp joined by Nadir Kuli, a.h. 1139 
(1727) — The Conquest of Khorasan by Nadir Kuli — The Defeat 
of the Afghans at Mehmandost, a.h. 1141 (1729) — The Second 
Defeat of the Afghans at Murchakhar, a.h. 1141 (1729) — The 
Reoccupation of Isfahan — The Final Rout of the Afghans, a.h. 
1142 (1730) — The Death of Ashraf, a.h. 1142 (1730) — The Flight 
of the Afghans. 


The Rise of Nadir Kuli to the Throne of Persia . -339 

The Origin and Birthplace of Nadir Kuli — His Captivity 
and Escape — Appointment to Abivard — Service under Malik 
Mahmud — His Capture of Kalat and Nishapur — His Dreams — 
The Capture of Meshed and the Execution of Malik Mahmud— 
The Reward for the Expulsion of the Afghans— Nadir Kuli's First 
Turkish Campaign — Tahmasp's Disastrous Campaign against the 
Turks, a.h. 1 144 (1731)— His Dethronement in a.h. 1145 (1732) 
—The Battle of Karkuk, a.h. 1146 (1733)— The Persian Victory 



over Topal Osman, a.h. 1146 (i733) — The Persian Victory of 
Baghavand, a.h. 1148 (1735)— The Evacuation of the Caspian 
Provinces by Russia — The Accession of Nadir Kuli to the Throne, 
A.H. 1 148 (1736) — The Abolition of the Shia Doctrines — The 
Coronation of Nadir Shah. 


The Conquests of Nadir Shah .... 349 

The Punitive Expedition against the Bakhtiaris — The Afghan 
Campaign, a.h. 1150-1151 (17 3 7-1 7 3 8) — The Expedition of Riza 
Kuli Mirza against Balkh — The State of India in a.h. 1151 
(1738) — The Negotiations — The Invasion of India — The Battle of 
Karnal, A.H. 1151 (1738) — The Surrender of Delhi and its Spoils 
— The Massacre — The Marriage of Nasrulla Khan — The Results 
of the Campaign — The Sind Expedition, A.H. 1151-1152 (1739) 
— The Campaign against Bokhara, a.h. 1153 (1740) — The 
Conquest of Khiva, a.h. 1153 (1740) — Nadir Shah at the Zenith 
of his Power. 


The Last Years of Nadir Shah . . . 360 

The Lesghian Campaign, 1 741-1742 — The Blinding of Riza 
Kuli Mirza — Rebellions in Persia, 1 743-1 744 — The Last Cam- 
paign against Turkey, 1 743-1 745 — The Pioneer Journeys of 
Elton, 1739-1742 — The Adventures of Jonas Hanway, 1743 — The 
Closing of British Trade across the Caspian, 1746 — The Naval 
Ambitions of Nadir Shah — The Assassination of Nadir Shah, a.h. 
1 1 60 (1747) — His Character. 


The Short-lived Zand Dynasty . . . -370 

Ahmad Khan, Durrani — Adil Shah, a.h. ii 60-1 161 (1747- 
1748) — Shah Rukh — The Origin of the Kajar Tribe — Mohamed 
Husayn Khan, Kajar — Azad the Afghan and Mardan Ali Khan, 
Bakhtiari — Karim Khan, Zand — The Triangular Contest for Povs^er 
— The Final Campaign, a.h. 1171 (1757) — The Reign of Karim 
Khan, a.h. 11 63-1 193 (i 750-1 779) — The Occupation of Kharak 
by the Dutch — The Foundation of the English Factory at Bushire, 
A.D. 1763 — The Expedition against Basra, a.h. ii 89-1 190 (1775- 
1776)— Zaki Khan— Abul Fatteh, Ali Murad, and Sadik— The 
Reign of Ali Murad, a.h. 1196-1199 (1782-1785) — Jafar, a.h. 
1199-1203 (1785-1789)— The Accession of Lutf Ali Khan— The 
Expedition of Lutf Ali against Kerman, a.h. 1205 (1790) — f^^ji 
Ibrahim— His Successful Plot— The Campaigns of Lutf Ali Khan 
against Aga Mohamed— The Final Act of the Drama, a.h. 1208 
(1794)— The Fateof Kerman— The Downfall of the Zand Dynasty. 




The Founding of the Kajar Dynasty . . • 3^5 

Aga Mohamed Khan, Kajar — The Expulsion of a Russian 
Expedition by Aga Mohamed, a.d. 1781 — The Independent Pro- 
vinces of Persia — The Neighbouring States — The Invasion of 
Georgia, a.h. 1209 (1795) — The Coronation of Aga Mohamed 
Khan, a.h. 1210 (1796) — The Reduction of Khorasan, a.h. 1210 
(1796) — The Russian Invasion, a.h. 1210 (1796) — The Assassina- 
tion of Aga Mohamed Khan, a.h. 12 ii (1797) — His Character — 
The Accession of Fath Ali Shah — Various Pretenders. 


British and French Missions at the Court of Fath Ali Shah 395 

The Afghan Question — The Mission of Mehdi Ali Khan, 1799 
— The French Peril to India — Malcolm's First Mission, 1800 — 
The Persian Embassy to India, 1802 — The Downfall of Haji 
Ibrahim — The Second Rebellion of Husayn Kuli Khan — The 
Execution of Nadir Mir^a, a.h. 12 16 (1802) — The Expulsion of 
the Afghans from Narmashir and Sistan — French Overtures to 
Persia, 1 802-1 804 — The First French Mission, 1805 — The Treaty 
of Finkenstein, 1807 — The Gardanne Mission, 1 807-1 808 — The 
Fight for Povv^er in Afghanistan, 1 799-1 808 — Malcolm's Second 
Mission, 1808 — The Mission of Sir Harford Jones, 1808-1809 — 
Malcolm's Third Mission, 18 10 — The Embassy of Haji Mirz.a 
Abul Hasan Khan, 1809-1810 — The Appointment of Sir Gore 
Ousely, 18 II — The Definitive Treaty, 18 14. 


The Disastrous Campaigns with Russia . . .410 

The Annexation of Georgia by Russia, 1800 — The Two 
Campaigns against Russia — The Persian Army under Abbas Mir%a 

The Erivan Campaign, 1804 — The Russian Descent on Gilan — 

The Battle of Aslanduz, 1812 — The Treaty of Gulistan, 1813 — 
Risings in Persia — The Embassy of General Yermeloff, 18 17 — 
Afghan Campaigns, 1805 and 18 17-18 18 — Hostilities with Turkey, 
a.h. 1236-1238 (i 821-1823) — The Dispute about Gokcha and its 
Seizure by Russia, 1825 — Initial Persian Successes — The Battle of 
Shamkar— The Battle of Ganja, 26th September 1826 — The 
Avarice of Fath Ali Shah— The Capture of Erivan, 1827— The 
Surrender of Tabriz, 1827— The Treaty of Turkomanchai, 1828 

The Modification of the Definitive Treaty with Great Britain — 

The Murder of M. Grebaiodov, 1828. 




Persian Aggression on Afghanistan . . . '4^3 

The Trend of Persian Policy, 1832-18 5 7— The Campaign of 
Abbas Mirza in Khorasan, 1832— Anglo-Russian Antagonism in 
Central Asia — The Siege of Herat and the Death of Abbas Mir%a, 
1833 — The Death of Fath AH Shah, 1834— The Accession of 
Mohamed Shah, 1834 — The Second British Military Mission — 
Haji Mirza Aghasi — The Afghan Policy of Mohamed Shah — The 
Rise of Dost Mohamed — The Burnes Mission — The Promises 
of Vitkavich— The Second Siege of Herat, 1837-1838— The First 
Afghan War, 1838-1842 — The British Mission to Herat, 1839- 
184 1 — The Settlement with Persia — The Rebellion of Aga Khan, 
1 840-1 841 — Perso-Turkish Relations, 1 842-1 843 — The Death of 
Mohamed Shah, 1848. 


The Final Settlement of the Perso-Afghan Question . 441 

The Accession of Nasir-u-Din, 1848 — Mirza Taki Khan, 
Amir-i-Nizam — The Rebellion of the Salar — The Bab — His 
Doctrines — The Fortunes of the Babis — Babi Plots and Risings, 
1 850-1 8 52 — Foundation of the Russian Naval Station at Ashurada, 
1840 — The Fall of the Amir-i-Nizam, 185 1 — The Herat Question, 
1 851-1853 — Russian Negotiations with Persia, 1853-1855 — The 
Breach with Great Britain, 1855 — The Anglo-Afghan Alliance, 
1855 — The Change of Rulers at Herat, 1855 — The Occupation of 
Herat by Persia, 1856 — The Second British Treaty with Dost 
Mohamed, 1857 — British Operations against Persia, 1 856-1 857 — 
The Conclusion of Peace, 1857 — The New Ruler of Herat — The 
Assertion of Persian Authority on the Persian Gulf Littoral. 


The Envelopment of Persia . . , . -458 

The Advance of Russia in Central Asia — The First Khivan 
Expedition, 1839-1840 — The Russian Advance to the Sea of Aral, 
1847— The Occupation of the Valley of the Sir Darya, 1849-1864 
—Russian Relations with Bokhara, 1842-18 68— The Conquest of 
Khiva, 1873— Persian Campaigns against the Turkoman, 1857- 
1860— The Crushing of the Turkoman by Russia, 188 1— The 
Effect on Persia— The Capture of Herat by Dost Mohamed, 1863 
— The Makran Boundary Commission, 1870-1 871 — The Sistan 
Question. The First Phase, 1863-1870— The Sistan Arbitration 
Commission, 1872— The Perso - Baluch Boundary Commission, 

1896 — The Second Sistan Arbitration Commission, 1903-1905 

The Perso-Turkish Boundary — Summary. 




The Awakening of Persia . . . . -472 

The Question of Telegraphic Communication between England 
and India— The First Telegraph Line in Persia, 1864— The Indo- 
European Telegraph Lines — Their Influence on Persia — The 
Cossack Brigade — The Reuter Concession, 1872 — The Opening 
of the Karun, 1888— The Imperial Bank of Persia, 1889— The 
Tobacco Regie, 1890-1892 — The Assassination of Nasir-u-Din — 
The Financial Difficulties of Muzaffar-u-Din — The Russian Bank — 
Persian Loans — The Belgian Customs Administration — The New 
Customs Tariff— An Analysis of the New Tariff— The Action of 
the British Government — Ali Asghar Khan, the Atabeg-i-Aazam 
— Anglo-Russian Rivalry. 


The State of Persia before the Revolution. . .487 

The Old Order and the New — The Powers of the Shah — 
His Duties — The Grand Vizier — The Machinery of Government 
— Justice — Punishments — Revenue — Taxation — A Persian Village 
— A Persian Peasant — The Tribesmen. 


The Grant of a Constitution to Persia . . . 500 

The Origin of the Constitutional Movement — Sayyid Jamal-u- 
Din — Prince Malkom Khan — The Ayn-u-Dola — The Visit to 
England of Muzaffar-u-Din, 1902 — The Condition of Persia 
before the Revolution — The First Bast, December 1905 — The 
Exodus to Kum, 1906 — The Great Bast in the British Legation, 
August, 1906 — The Magna Charta of Persia — The Regulations 
for the Assembly — The Opening of the National Assembly, 
October, 1906 — The Signing of the Constitution — The New Order. 


INDEX ... . 519 




Shah Abbas the Great . 
The Kaaba 

Mohamed and the Black Stone 
The Angel Gabriel appearing to 
Mohamed (?) preaching 
AH slays Marhab of Khaybar 
The Ruins of Rei 
The Pulpit of the Mahdi 
The Gurgan Defile 
Timuri Nomads 

The Imam Riza and the Hunter 
Meshed, the Sacred City of Persia 
The Gunbad-i-Kabus . 
Kurds migrating into Darragaz, the Medieval Abivard 
Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar 
The Shrine of Hazrat-i-Sultan, Darragaz 
The Site of Firdausi's Tomb 
Faz, the Birthplace of Firdausi . 
The Tomb of Omar Khayyam , 

Shirin and Farhad ..... 

A Nomad of the Period of Chenghiz Khan 
Kara Khitan, slightly before the Period of Chenghiz Khan 
The Walls of Tus ..... 

The Siege of Baghdad by Hulagu Khan 
Tabriz . 

A Bridge over the Zab 
Stone Pulpit at Sirjan 

The Ruins of Zahidan 
The College of Shir Dar at Samarcand . 







• H 

. 36 

• 42 


• 54 

. 64 

• 72 

■ 74 

- 92 

. 100 



















At the Door of Tamerlane's Tomb 

The Tomb of Tamerlane 

A Sortie from Samarcand 

The Blue Mosque at Tabriz 

Baber on his Throne 

The Tomb of Hafiz 

The Tomb of Khudabanda at Sultania 

The Shrine of Shah Namat Ulla 

Ruins of a Palace at Sultania 

Shah Ismail killing the Aga of the Janissaries 

Shah Tahmasp entertaining the Emperor Humayun 

A Kurdish Village .... 

The Portuguese Fort at Hormuz 

Bandar Abbas ... 

The Palace at Ashraff .... 

Shah Tahmasp entertaining Abdul Mohamed, Khan 

Uzbegs ... 
The Masjid-i-Shah, Isfahan 
The Chahar Bagh at Isfahan 
A Persian Garden Carpet 
The Bridge of Allah Verdi Khan 
The College of Shah Sultan Husayn, Isfahan , 
Mosul . 

In the Kurdistan Mountains 
The Musalla at Meshed 
The Chehel Sutun 
Isfahan from the North 
Maydan-i-Mir Chakmak, Yezd 
Hamadan with Mount Alvand in the Background 
Kupkan, the Home of Imam Kuli 
A Chapashlu Tribesman of Darragaz 
Nadir Shah ..... 
A Typical Hill Village on the Perso-Afghan Frontier 
A Bakhtiari Chief .... 

Nadir Shah attacking Mohamed Shah 
The Treasure House of Nadir Shah 
Jonas Hanway and the Columns of Skulls near Astrabad 
A Bridge across the River Karun 
Karim Khan, Zand .... 
Shiraz from the Garden of the Imperial Bank of Persia 
Lutf Ali Khan ..... 
Kerman : the Masjid Gate 
Turbat-i-Haydari .... 

of the 
















The Hall of Audience, Astrabad 

Aga Mohamed Shah 

Path AH Shah . 

A Typical Kurdish Village 

Christian Tribesmen in Kurdistan 

A Shrine at Kumishah . 

Herat Citadel from the City 

The Shrine of Khoja Rabi 

Abdul Baha 

Mohamera from the River Karun 

Mohamed Geldi Khan, Chief of the Goklan 

Weaving at Neh (close to Sistan) 
Rafts on the Sistan Lake 
H.I.M. Nasir-u-Din 

Kurd Boy burning Rue to avert the Evil Eye 
The Stone Lion at Meshed 
In the Meshed Bazaar . 
Ploughing in the Nishapur Valley 
H.H. the Farman Parma 
A Gorge in the Bakhtiari Country 
















Vol. I 


To illustrate Persian Invasions of Hellas. (From Herodotus, \o\. 

ii., by Reginald Walter Macan, D.Litt.) . . .150 

The Empire of Alexander the Great. (From A History of 

Greece, by Professor J. B. Bury) . . . .252 

Eastern Turkey in Asia, Syria, and Western Persia. (By per- 
mission of the Royal Geographical Society) . In pocket 

Vol. ir 

To illustrate the Rise of Islam .... 2 

The Provinces of the Abbasid Caliphate. (From Lands of the 

Eastern Caliphate, by G. Le Strange) . . .62 

Central Asia ....... 84 

Persia. (By kind permission of the Government of India) In pocket 


The Opening Suiia of the Koran. 



Praise be to God, the Lord of creation, 

The most merciful, the most compassionate ! 

Ruler of the day of Reckoning ! 

Thee we worship, and invoke for help. 

Lead us in the straight path ; 

The path of those towards whom Thou hast been gracious ; 

Not of those against whom Thy wrath is kindled, or that walk in error. 

T/ie Fatiha or Opening Sura of the Koran. 

A Description of Arabia. — The rise of Islam ^ was an 
event of such overwhelming importance to Persia that, 
although some of its results have been referred to in the 
previous chapter, it seems advisable to deal with it in a 
connected way from the beginning.^ 

The peninsula of Arabia, with an area four times as 
large as France, has a central tableland termed Nejd, 

^ Islam signifies "Submission to the will of God." A follower of the religion is 
termed a Mussulman, Muslim, or Moslem, the second form being the participle of 
Islam. The term " Mohamedan " is not usually applied by Moslems to themselves, 
except so far as it has been adopted owing to European influence, 

" Among the authorities consulted are The Caliphate and also The Life of Mahomet, 
by sir William Muir ; Geschichte der ChaUfen (4 vols.), by Dr. Gustave Weil j A 
Literary History of the Arabs, by R. A. Nicholson j and Arabia, the Cradle of Islam, by 
Rev. S. M. Zwemer. 



which covers one-half of the peninsula and averages some 
3000 feet in altitude. Round this in every direction, 
and especially to the south, lie deserts. Beyond these 
wastes stretch chains of mountains, for the most part low 
and barren, but in Oman to the east and in the Yemen 
to the west attaining considerable elevation. The coast 
line of Arabia, backed by an unbroken mountain barrier, 
extends down the Red Sea to the Straits of Bab-ul- Mandeb, 
or " Gate of Tears," thence in an east-north-easterly direc- 
tion to Ras-ul-Hadd, and so round to the Persian Gulf, 
a total distance of four thousand miles, in which hardly 
a single good natural harbour or inlet is to be found. The 
peninsula is therefore difficult of access from every quarter, 
a fact recognized by its inhabitants, who call it Jazirat-ul- 
Arab^ or "the Island of the Arabs.'' Nor are its internal 
communications good ; for the great desert, the Rub-al- 
Khali^ or " Solitary Quarter," has, from time immemorial, 
divided the country, separating the north from the south. 
It is in consequence, perhaps, of this natural barrier that 
we find at an early period the rude nomads of the north 
speaking Arabic and the more civihzed inhabitants of 
Yemen and the south Himyarite, a tongue which died 
out before the sixth century of our era, leaving Arabic 

In the physical geography of Persia we noted the 
remarkable fact that between the Indus and the Shatt-ul- 
Arab no river of any importance reaches the sea. Persia 
is a country of riverless desert, with a rainfall of less than 
ten inches in the north and perhaps five inches in the 
south ; but Arabia is less favoured still. There also 
desert is the salient feature, and no rivers are to be 
found ; but both in its deserts and in its lack of water 
Arabia is more " intense," to use the geographical term, 
than neighbouring Iran. 

The Importance of Mecca, — On the trade with the 
East, rather than upon any local products, depended the 
prosperity of Arabia. Even as far back as the tenth 
century B.C. the spices, peacocks, and apes of India were 
brought by ship to the coast of Oman. From the Hadra- 
maut, the province lying opposite India, the caravan route 




















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ran to Marib, the capital of the Sabaean kingdom, and 
thence by way of Mecca and Petra to Gaza. A glance at 
the map will show how Mecca, which lay about half-way 
between the Hadramaut and Petra, must have benefited 
by this land commerce, and explain why it became a 
centre of population and a resort of merchants. 

The importance of this trade is shown in the book of 
Ezekiel, in which the prophet refers as follows to the 
riches of Tyre : ^ " Arabia, and all the princes of Kedar, 
they occupied with thee in lambs, and rams, and goats : 
in these were they thy merchants. The merchants of 
Sheba and Raamah, they were thy merchants : they 
occupied in thy fairs with chief of all spices, and with 
all precious stones, and gold. Haran, and Canneh, and 
Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad, 
were thy merchants." 

This quotation from a Jewish prophet, who is known 
to have been sent into captivity by the orders of Nebu- 
chadnezzar in 599 B.C., sufficiently attests the ancient im- 
portance of this trade, and it is of special interest to find 
that Aden, the Eden of Ezekiel, was known by the same 
name more than two thousand years before it was annexed 
by Great Britain. It was probably in the first century of 
the Christian era that the Indian trade began to pass by 
water through the Bab-ul-Mandeb and up the Red Sea, 
with the result that the caravan routes were gradually 
deserted and the erstwhile thriving cities dwindled and 

The Ancient Religion of the Arabs, — Muir, our great 
authority,^ believes that the religious rites practised at 
Mecca can be traced to the Yemen, of which district its 
earliest inhabitants were probably natives. They brought 
with them the system of Sabeanism, which implied belief 
in one God coupled with worship of the heavenly bodies. 
To-day the survivors of the sect, many of whom live in 
the neighbourhood of Basra and Mohamera, are mis- 
named " Christians of St. John the Baptist " by travellers, 
although they speak of themselves as Mandeans. They 

^ Chap, xxvii. 21-23. 

2 T have not gone into the sources of the biography of Mohamed, but would refer 
the student to chap. i. of Muir's work. 


practise baptism and ceremonial ablutions, hold the book 
of Psalms to be sacred, and adore especially the north 
star.^ Edwin Arnold has expressed the debt due to 
Sabeanism in the following words : " Islam was born in 
the desert, with Arab Sabeanism for its mother and 
Judaism for its father ; its foster-nurse was Eastern 
Christianity." There is much truth in this view. 

The ancient Arabians had seven temples, dedicated to 
the seven planets. They also worshipped goddesses, 
three of whom are mentioned in the Koran under the 
names of Mat, the special idol of Mecca ; Al-Uzza,^ the 
planet Venus ; and Mana, a sacred stone. There was also 
an idol for every day of the year in the temple at Mecca. 

The Kaaba. — The centre of worship at Mecca was the 
Kaaba.^ This sacred temple contained, embedded in the 
eastern corner, a reddish-black stone, which is believed to 
be a meteorite ; it is semicircular in shape and very small, 
measuring only some six inches by eight. This was 
reverently kissed by pilgrims, who made seven circuits 
round the sacred building. In the case of the " Lesser 
Pilgrimage " it was also necessary to walk seven times 
between the hills of Safa and Marwa ; and in the " Greater 
Pilgrimage " Arafat, a small hill to the east of Mecca, had 
to be visited, stones had to be cast against the Evil One 
in the Mina valley, and the pilgrimage concluded by the 
sacrifice of victims. The strength of Jewish influence 
accounts for the reputed connexion of this pre-Moslem 
ritual with Abraham ; the deserted Ishmael is believed to 
have discovered the sacred well Zemzem by kicking the 
ground, and it was Abraham and Isaac who -built the 
Kaaba and instituted the pilgrimage. 

The Ancestors of the Prophet Mohamed. — Among the 
Arabs birth was of the first importance, and consequently 
a brief account must be given of Mohamed's ancestry and 
tribe. Towards the middle of the fifth century a certain 

■^ Vide Zwemer's Arabia^ the Cradle of Islam^ chap, xxviii., for an interesting account 
of the modern Sabeans. The Arabs gave them the name of Al-Maghtasila^ or " The 
Washers," from their ceremonial ablutions, and this, being misunderstood by the Portu- 
guese, gave rise to the misnomer mentioned above. 

^ It was in honour of this goddess that Mundhir, the Saracen Prince of Hira, sacri- 
ficed 400 nuns, as mentioned in Chapter XXXIX, 

^ The word signifies a cube. 

THl^ KAAr^,A 
(From a Persian i\IS. in the British Museum.) 


Kussal, chief of the Kureish^ tribe, was the ruler of Mecca, 
and he gathered into the city his fellow-tribesmen. Apart 
from the civil rights which conferred on him leadership in 
war and jurisdiction in peace, Kussai held the keys of the 
Kaaba, which gave him the prerogative of providing water 
for the pilgrims. After his death and that of his eldest 
son a feud broke out among his descendants. The elder 
branch refused to share any of their privileges with the 
younger, and for a while it seemed Hkely that the dispute 
would be settled by the sword. The supporters of the 
elder branch dipped their hands into a bowl of blood and 
invoked the aid of the gods, and Hashim, the leader of 
the younger, also swore an oath with much circumstance. 
Ultimately it was decided that the custody of the keys 
and the right of raising the war banner should be re- 
tained by the elder branch, but that the younger should 
provide the pilgrims with water and food. 

As the years went by, Hashim, a striking personality, 
acquired a great reputation for generous hospitality, and 
in consequence he was envied by his nephew Omayya, 
who in vain attempted to rival him. At length Omayya 
challenged his uncle to a trial before a judge, who was to 
pronounce upon the question of personal merit. Hashim 
was forced by tribal opinion to take up the challenge, but 
on the condition, demanded by him, that the loser should 
pay fifty black-eyed camels and leave Mecca for ten years. 
The decision was given in his favour, and Omayya quitted 
Mecca for Syria, after handing over the fifty camels, which 
were slaughtered to make a feast. The incident is of im- 
portance, because from it dates the rivalry between the 
Omayyad and Hashimite factions, a rivalry destined to 
bear baleful fruit. About a.d. 500 Hashim in mature 
age married an heiress of Medina, and from this mar- 
riage a son, Shiba, was born. Hashim died in a.d. 510, 
and his prerogatives passed to his elder brother Al-Mut- 
talib, who continued the family tradition of open-handed 

Shiba was allowed to live for some years at Medina, 

1 Kureish is believed to be derived from a word signifying a "highly-bred camel." 
If this be correct, it is a curious coincidence that Zoroaster's name is supposed to have 
an almost similar meaning. Vide Chapter IX. 


but at last his uncle brought him to Mecca, where he was 
at first mistaken for a slave and called Abdul Muttalib, 
or " The Slave of Muttalib," a sobriquet which stuck to 
him through life. A family quarrel concerning property- 
was decided in his favour on the arrival of eighty of his 
maternal relatives from Medina, and when Al-MuttaHb 
died he succeeded to his dignities. For some time his 
influence was slight, as he had only one son ; but one day 
he was so fortunate as to rediscover the site of the sacred 
well of Zemzem, which had existed, as we have seen, 
in ancient times. The possession of this well at once 
gave its owner immense power in thirsty Mecca, and with 
the birth of other sons his prestige became as great as that 
of his father. But he had made a rash vow that, if granted 
ten sons, he would sacrifice one of them to the Fates. 
When the number was reached lots were cast and fell on 
AbduUa, the youngest. As the father was preparing to 
fulfil his dreadful oath, he was persuaded to cast lots 
between the boy and ten camels, which represented the 
blood fine for a man's life. Nine times the lot fell upon 
the boy, but at the tenth throw it fell at last on the camels. 
They were slaughtered to the number of one hundred 
and given to the inhabitants of Mecca. 

Abdulla, who was thus saved from death, upon reach- 
ing the age of twenty-four, was married by his father to a 
relative, Amina ^ by name. Directly after the marriage he 
started on a trading expedition to Syria. On his return 
he died at Medina, and on the 20th of August, a.d. 570, 
his widow gave birth to a son, who was Mohamed ^ the 

The Political Situation in Arabia before and after the 
Birth of the Prophet. — Among the earliest foreign rela- 
tions of the Kureish tribe which have been recorded is 
a so-called treaty concluded by Hashim with the Ghas- 
sanide prince, a Christianized Arab Shaykh, whose capital, 
Bostra, lay to the east of the Jordan. Hashim is also 
said to have received a rescript from the Emperor allow- 
ing the Kureish to travel in Syria, but in all probability it 

1 Amina is the feminine form of Amin^ signifying " trustworthy." The name of the 
Prophet is more correctly written Muhammad. The word signifies " The Praised." 


was the local representative of the Emperor who signed 
the document. 

In Chapter XL. reference has been made to the in- 
vasion and occupation of the Yemen by the Abyssinians, 
whose capital at that period was Axum, near the Red Sea 
littoral. In a.d. 570, the year of the Prophet's birth, 
Abraha,-^ the capable Abyssinian Viceroy, marched on 
Mecca, ostensibly to avenge an insult offered to the 
church at Sana, but probably intending to destroy the 
Kaaba from political motives. Brushing aside all oppo- 
sition, he reached Tayif, three stages east of the Sacred 
City. Thence he despatched raiding parties which cap- 
tured, among other live stock, two hundred camels 
belonging to Abdul Muttalib. Following with his 
main body, which included that portentous monster an 
elephant, he halted outside Mecca and sent envoys to 
inform the panic-stricken Arabs that he had no desire 
to injure them but was determined to destroy the 
Kaaba. Abdul Muttalib proceeded to the camp of the 
enemy to treat with Abraha, who restored his camels 
but would not be turned from his purpose. 

The legend runs that Abdul Muttalib would only 
ask for his camels, and in reply to a contemptuous 
remark fS-om Abraha retorted that the Kaaba needed 
no human defender. On the fateful day the elephant 
refused to advance, and the failure of the expedition is 
commemorated in the following verses from the Koran : 
" Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the army 
of the Elephant ? Did he not cause their stratagem to 
miscarry ? And he sent against them flocks of little 
birds which cast upon them small clay stones, and made 
them like unto the stubble of which the cattle have eaten." 
The passage is a glorified description of an epidemic of 
small-pox — also termed " small stones '' in Arabic — which 
is historical. The Abyssinian army retreated, and Abraha 
died at Sana of the foul disease. The news that the Kaaba 
had been protected by divine intervention must have 
spread far and wide, and greatly enhanced both the 
sanctity of the Shrine and the prestige of the Kureish. 

1 Abraha is the Abyssinian form of Ibrahim or Abraham. 


Upon the death of Abraha his son Yaksum held 
the viceroyalty for only four years, to be succeeded by 
Masruk. It was during Masruk's reign that the famous 
expedition was despatched by Noshirwan, which resulted 
in the expulsion of the Abyssinians and the reinstate- 
ment of the old Himyarite monarchs under the suzerainty 
of the Great King. Tabari/ who is the authority for 
this campaign, states that Saif, upon his accession to the 
throne, was visited by Abdul Muttalib, who is known 
to have died in a.d. 578. Consequently the date of this 
campaign must have been between a.d. 574 and a.d. 578. 

The Childhood^ Touth^ and Early Manhood of Mohamed. 
— The prospects of the infant Mohamed were not bright. 
His father was dead and his entire property consisted of 
a slave girl, five camels, some goats, and a house. At 
the same time he possessed powerful relations. In 
accordance with custom, the infant was entrusted to a 
nomad woman, Halima of the Beni Sad, and among the 
free sons of the desert Mohamed remained until he was 
six years old. His constitution benefited by the open- 
air life, although apparently he was subject to epileptic 
fits. Moreover, the Beni Sad were held to speak the 
purest Arabic, and the Prophet in after years used to 
boast, "Verily, I am the most perfect Arab amongst 
you ; my descent is from the Kureish, and my tongue 
is the tongue of the Beni Sad." Among a people who 
counted eloquence as the highest of gifts, this upbringing 
was of great advantage. It is to the credit of Mohamed 
that he never forgot his foster-mother, and always treated 
her and her family with generosity and kindness. In his 
sixth year the lad was taken back to Medina, and when he 
returned there forty-seven years afterwards he was able to 
identify the house and to recall the details of the life he 
had led in it. 

Amina shortly afterwards decided to take the child 
to Mecca, but died on the road. The orphan was most 
kindly treated by his grandfather until his own death, 
which occurred when Mohamed was eight years old. 
With this event the Hashimite branch of the family 

^ Vol. ii. pp. 203 ff. 


suffered a loss of prestige and influence which accrued to 
the Omayyad section instead, and remained with it until 
the conquest of Mecca by the Prophet. 

Abu Talib, the uncle to whom the orphan had been 
entrusted, treated him with the utmost affection, a fact 
which seems to indicate that the boy possessed attractive 
qualities. When only twelve years old he was taken by 
his guardian on a caravan journey to Syria, which must 
have enlarged the horizon of his experience. 

At the annual fair held at Ocatz, to the east of Mecca, 
his young mind was doubtless influenced by listening 
to the contests in poetry among bards of the various 
tribes. There he would also hear Jewish and Christian 
preachers. About this period, during the time of the 
fair, a blood feud arose through the murder of a chief 
of the Hawazin by a rival, who had .a confederate 
among the Kureish. This occasioned several desperate 
skirmishes, at one of which the Prophet was present ; 
but he did not distinguish himself. Indeed, at no time 
in his career did he display martial qualities. 

Apart from these skirmishes, dignified by the name 
of the Sacrilegious War, the Prophet spent his youth 
as a shepherd, a mean occupation which usually fell to 
the lot of slaves. In after years he said, " Verily there 
hath been no prophet raised up, who performed not 
the work of a shepherd." He must have been held in 
esteem at Mecca, since it is recorded that he was termed 
Al-Amin or « The Faithful." 

But for the poverty of Abu Talib, it is possible that 
Mohamed would have continued to lead a shepherd's 
life, which suited his reserved and meditative nature. 
But at the age of twenty-five necessity drove him to 
Syria in part charge of a caravan belonging to Khadija, 
a wealthy widow of the Kureish. At Bostra he bartered 
his goods successfully, and upon his return Khadija fell 
in love with the handsome youth, and married him after 
obtaining her father's consent by a ruse. The marriage 
was happy and Mohamed lived contentedly with Khadija, 
although his two sons both died. It appears that, while 
continuing to manage her own affairs as before, she 


admired her husband's qualities and realized that he was 

no ordinary man. 

Time passed, and when Mohamed was about thirty- 
five years of age the Kaaba was rebuilt. Each of the 
four divisions of the Kureish took charge of a wall, and 
when the structure had risen 4 or 5 feet above the 
ground, the Black Stone had to be built once again into 
the east corner. The question who should have the 
honour of placing the stone into position led to heated 
debate until an aged citizen suggested that the first 
man to arrive on the spot should be asked to decide. 
By chance Mohamed came up, and, being informed of 
the case, placed the stone on his cloak and called on 
each chief to raise a corner of it. Thus the stone was 
borne into the new temple, where the hands of Mohamed 
set it in position. He may well have thought that his 
opportune arrival was divinely ordained. As mentioned 
in Chapter XLII., the batde of Zu-Kar was fought between 
A.D. 604 and 611. Mohamed, who followed such events 
with the keenest interest, upon hearing of the victory of 
the Arabs, is said to have exclaimed, " This is the first 
day whereon the Arabs have obtained satisfaction from 
the Persians ; through me have they obtained help ! " 
Little that is worthy of note has been recorded of this 
period. Mohamed, relieved of all worldly cares and 
surrounded by a few faithful friends and kinsmen, was 
able to devote himself to contemplation and prayer, and 
it is related that, like other Prophets, he frequently went 
into the desert to meditate. 

The Divine Commission conveyed by Gabriel. — Muir*s 
work is nowhere more masterly than in his analysis of 
the steps which led Mohamed to proclaim himself the 
Prophet of God. " He was seated or wandering amidst 
the peaks of Hira, buried no doubt in reveries, when 
suddenly an apparition rose before him. The heavenly 
Visitant stood clear and close beside him in a vision. It 
was no other than Gabriel,^ the Messenger of God, who now 
appeared in the sky, and, approaching within * two bows* 
length,' brought from his Master this memorable behest : 

^ Muir considers that Mohamed confused Gabriel with the Holy Ghost. 







Q -E 




Recite in the name of the Lord who created, — 
Created Man from nought but congealed blood ; — 
Recite ! for thy Lord is beneficent. 
It is He who hath taught (to write) with the pen ; — 
Hath taught man that which he knoweth not."^ . . . 

The Assumption of the Prophetical Office^ a.d. 613-614. 
— In A.D. 613-614, the forty- fourth year of his life, we 
find Mohamed proclaiming himself a divinely inspired 
Prophet, sent by God to the people of Arabia. His 
followers, though very few, were both honest and devoted. 
Among them were Khadija, his wife, Zayd, his adopted 
son, and Ali, son of AbuTalib, his cousin. Of far greater 
weight was the adherence of Abu Bekr, a member of the 
Kureish, a man of substance, and of the highest personal 
character. Other converts included Sad, Othman, and 
Abdur Rahman, who himself brought fcAir more con- 
verts. Thus slowly during the three or four years which 
followed the assumption of the prophetic office some forty 
followers, all of them loyal to the core, threw in their 
lot with Mohamed. 

The behaviour of his fellow-citizens was such as might 
have been expected. At first, having known Mohamed 
from boyhood, they treated his claims with contempt, and 
regarded him as a harmless visionary ; but gradually, 
owing to their connexion with the Kaaba, these feelings 
changed into open hostility, which showed itself in perse- 
cution. This drew all the more attention to the doctrines 
expounded by the Prophet, who was himself protected by 
Abu Talib. Others, however, who had no protectors 
were imprisoned or exposed to the glare of the sun or 
ill-treated in other ways. 

The Temporary Emigration to Abyssinia^ a.d. 615. — 
So hot did the persecution become and so black the out- 
look that Mohamed recommended his followers to seek a 
temporary asylum in Christian Abyssinia, and in a.d. 615 
a party of eleven men fled to the port of Shuayba, near 
Jeddah, and thence reached Africa in safety. 

The historical interview with the Negus is recorded 

1 This, the ninety-sixth sura or chapter, was the starting-point of Islam, and 
Mohamed himself used to refer to it as his first inspired utterance. 

12 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, xliv 

by Ibn Hisham/ and the narrative presents a truly remark- 
able picture of early Islam. In reply to a question by the 
Negus as to why the refugees, although separated from 
their own people, entered not into the Christian religion, 
the Moslem leader said, " O King ! We were a barbarous 
folk, worshipping idols, eating carrion, committing shame- 
ful deeds, violating the ties of consanguinity, and evilly 
entreating our neighbours, the strong among us con- 
suming the weak ; and thus we continued until God sent 
unto us an Apostle from our midst, whose pedigree and 
integrity and faithfulness and purity of life we knew, to 
summon us to God, that we should declare His unity, 
and worship Him, and put away the stones and idols 
which we and our fathers used to worship in His stead ; 
and he bade us be truthful in speech, and faithful in the 
fulfilment of our trusts, and observing of the ties of con- 
sanguinity and the duties of neighbours, and to refrain 
from forbidden things and from blood ; and he forbade 
immoral acts and deceitful words, and consuming the 
property of orphans, and slandering virtuous women ; 
and he commanded us to worship God, and to associate 
naught else with Him, and to pray and give alms and 
fast" Well might the Negus weep upon hearing this 
exposition of faith, and exclaim, " Verily, this and that 
which Moses brought emanate from one Lamp ! " 

1 Ibn Hisham wrote the earliest biography of the Prophet about a.d. 828. 



^•(•"c'ls- "V ^ 

Quotation from the Koran. 
(From a MS. in the British Museum.) 




O true believers, take not my enemy and your enemy for your friends, 
showing kindness toward them ; since they believe not in the truth which 
hath come unto you, having expelled the apostle and yourselves from your 
native city, because ye believe in God, your Lord. — T/ie Koran. 

The Hijra^ or '' Flight^'' to Medina^ a.d. 622. — The 
claims of Mohamed made but slow progress as the years 
passed. The enmity of the Kureish was so intense that 
for two or three years they placed the Hashimite section 
of the tribe under a ban and refused to have any dealings 
with them ; and the Prophet had the misfortune to lose 
by death not only the faithful Khadija but also Abu Talib, 
whose unswerving support of his nephew, although he 
himself remained an idolater, affords a fine testimony to 
the nobility of both. 

Shortly after the death of Khadija, Mohamed attempted 
to convert the men of neighbouring Tayif, but the mission 
was a complete failure. He left the city, pursued by the 
rabble, and returned to Mecca hopeless as to the future. 
But brighter days were in store, for his teaching had made 
so deep an impression on pilgrims from Medina that the 



majority of its Arab inhabitants became converted to his 
creed, and the Jews, who formed a large percentage of the 
population, observed in amazement that the idols were 
thrown down and that belief in one God was acknowledged. 

An invitation to leave hostile Mecca for friendly- 
Medina was given by a band of seventy leading citizens 
at a secret meeting held near Mecca, and shortly after this 
the Prophet's adherents began to migrate in small parties. 
Mohamed and the faithful Abu Bekr remained until the 
last. To put their enemies oiF the track they first hid in 
a cave to the south of Mecca for a few days, and then, in 
the fifty-third year of the Prophet's life, on June 20, 
A.D. 622, the famous journey was begun. From this date 
the Moslem era starts, the word Hijra^ incorrectly written 
Hegira, signifying " Flight." No saying is truer than 
that " a prophet is not without honour, but in his own 
country, and among his own kin, and in his own house," 
and, had not Mohamed been strong enough to face the 
odium of what the Arabs regarded as a deed of shame by 
quitting his own people and proceeding to Medina, Islam 
would in all probability have died with its Prophet, now 
already in middle age. 

The Erection of the First Mosque at Medina. — At 
Medina he was received with honour and rejoicing, and 
was pressed by various leading men to become their 
guest. Unwilling to identify himself with any one tribe, 
he courteously replied that where the camel sat down 
there would he dwell. The beast stopped and sat down 
in a large open courtyard in the eastern quarter of the 
city. Mohamed purchased the land, and erected upon it 
the first mosque, a square building of stone, brick, and 
palm logs. The Kihla^ towards which the faithful prayed, 
was Jerusalem. The Azan, or Call to Prayer, was now 
instituted, running as follows : " Great is the Lord ! 
Great is the Lord ! I bear witness that there is no God 
but the Lord : I bear witness that Mohamed is the 
Prophet of God. Come unto prayer : Come unto Salva- 
tion. God is Great ! God is Great ! There is no God 
but the Lord ! " The traveller from the West to this 
day finds nothing more solemn or more striking than to 






be awakened in the early dawn by the beautiful cadence 
of this call to prayer. 

The Breach with the Jews. — In spite of the welcome 
given to the Prophet and the support of his kinsmen, 
he encountered not only local jealousies but the hostility 
of the three tribes of Jews towards the new religion. 
In token of his breach with these, he suddenly directed 
the faithful to foUow his example and pray towards 
Mecca. This reversal of custom was upon the whole 
a politic stroke ; for, although it laid Mohamed open to 
a charge of inconsistency, it must have gratified the people 
of Arabia by preserving to Mecca its pre-eminence in the 
ceremonial of the new faith. 

The Battle of Badr^ a.h. 2 (623), and the Expulsion of 
the Beni Kainucas. — For some six months after their arrival 
at Medina the Muhajarin^ or " Refugees^" were busily 
occupied in settling down, and in sending for their 
families, whom the Kureish allowed to depart, although 
they might well have kept them as hostages. Attacks 
were then made on the Mecca caravans trading with 
Syria, but at first without result. In the second year 
of the Hijra^ however, a small caravan was captured on 
the road between Mecca and Tayif, and a member of 
the Kureish tribe was killed. Such was Mohamed's first 

He was soon to gain a greater victory, the results of 
which all Moslem historians have rightly regarded as 
marking a new era for the religion he taught. Hearing 
that a rich caravan belonging to Mecca was on its way 
back from Syria, the Prophet proceeded to Badr with 
300 men hoping to intercept it. News, however, reached 
Mecca, and the full force of the Kureish marched out to 
the rescue. The caravan meanwhile escaped by travelling 
off the main route, and the Prophet, upon reaching Badr, 
learned that an army of 900 Kureish was encamped in 
the neighbourhood. His enemies, upon learning that 
the caravan was safe, were not anxious to fight with their 
fellow-tribesmen ; but Mohamed, feeling that he must 
win or retreat in disgrace, decided to attack. The battle, 
as was customary, was preceded by single combats, in 


which the Moslems were invariably successful, aiid in the 
engagement which ensued they carried all before them, 
the Kureish fleeing, after sustaining a loss of forty-nine 
killed against fourteen on the other side. Among the 
slain were some of Mohamed's leading enemies, and those 
among the prisoners who were specially obnoxious to the 
Moslems were butchered in cold blood. The remainder 
were taken to Medina, where they were well treated until 
ransomed. Of the rich spoil taken the Prophet reserved 
one-fifth for himself, and divided the remainder equally. 
The victory of Badr was a turning-point in Islam ; for if 
the Prophet had returned to Medina a fugitive, his enemies 
would probably have prevailed against him. As it was, 
his success against a force of the Kureish three times as 
strong as his own justified him before his followers in 
ascribing the victory to divine aid. In the eighth sura 
we read, " And ye slew them not, but God slew them." 

The year after the battle of Badr Mohamed felt himself 
strong enough to attack the Beni Kainucas, one of the 
three tribes of Jews resident in Medina. The other two 
made no attempt to come to the aid of their co-religionists, 
and the unfortunate Beni Kainucas were forced by lack of 
supplies to submit. The Prophet at first intended to 
massacre all the men, but in the end they were permitted 
to leave Medina after being stripped of their property. 
As they were goldsmiths and armourers by occupation 
their departure did not furnish landed property to the 

The Battle of Ohod, a.h. 3 (625), and the Expulsion of 
the Beni Nazir,— The career of the Prophet was not 
without vicissitudes. In a.h. 3 (625) a Kureish force 
3000 strong, burning to avenge the defeat at Badr, 
attacked the Moslem army, which only mustered 1000 
men, at Ohod, outside Medina. As at Badr, the Moslems 
had the advantage in the single combats, but in the general 
hand-to-hand contest which ensued, the superior numbers 
of the Kureish won the day. Mohamed was wounded, 
and but for his foresight in fighting with his back to 
some crags, there might well have been an irretrievable 
disaster. As it was, he lost seventy-four warriors, and his 


prestige was sensibly lowered. But his burning eloquence 
gradually persuaded his followers that these reverses were 
but to test them, and in the following year he strengthened 
his position by driving out the second of the Jewish 
tribes. The Beni Nazir were agriculturists, and when 
they yielded and quitted Medina, the Prophet was able 
to distribute rich lands and date-groves among his chief 

The Siege of Medina and the Massacre of the Beni 
Koreitza^ a.h. 5 (627). — Two years after the battle of 
Ohod a still larger army of the Kureish, 10,000 strong, 
marched on Medina. There could be no thought of 
meeting such an overwhelming force in the field ; so 
by the advice of Salman, a Persian captive, Medina was 
fortified. This unexpected artifice, held to be unworthy 
of Arabs, entirely baffled the Kureish, who, after making 
some unsuccessful assaults broke up camp and marched 
oflF. Upon their retirement Mohamed massacred the Beni 
Koreitza, the third Jewish tribe residing in Medina, which 
had had dealings with the invaders, and his followers bene- 
fited by the rich booty thus acquired. By the repulse of 
the Kureish the disgrace of Ohod had been wiped out, 
and the position of Mohamed, whose enemies, the Jews, 
had disappeared from Medina, was now supreme in that 

The Truce of Hodeibia^ a.h. 6 (628). — The next im- 
portant step taken by the Prophet was to attempt the 
pilgrimage to Mecca. This was in the sixth year after 
the Hijra^ and although the Kureish refused to permit 
Mohamed and his followers to enter the Sacred City, a 
truce was made, known as the Truce of Hodeibia, and it 
was agreed that the pilgrims would be admitted in the 
following year. 

The Embassies sent by Mohamed^ a.h. 7 (628). — Few 
events in the life of Mohamed are of greater interest than 
the letters sent by him to Heraclius, to the Great King, 
to the Governors of Yemen and of Egypt, and to the 
King of Abyssinia. That to the Great King is said to 
have run as follows : "In the name of God, the Merciful, 
the Compassionate. From Mohamed, the Apostle of 

VOL. II c 


God to Khusru son of Hormuzd. But to proceed. 
Verily I extol unto thee God, beside whom there is no 
other God. O Khusru ! Submit and thou shalt be safe, 
or else prepare to wage with God and with his Apostle 
a war which shall not find them helpless ! Farewell ! " 
According to the legend, the Great King tore up the 
epistle, and the Prophet on hearing of it prayed, " Even 
thus, O Lord ! rend Thou his kingdom from him ! " 

The Conquest of Khayhar, a.h. 7 (628). — The conquest 
of Khaybar, a rich district inhabited by Jews and situated 
about one hundred miles north of Medina, was the next 
exploit of the conquering Prophet. The Jews were 
surprised and offered but little resistance after the death 
of their champion Merhab, who was cut in two by Ali, 
now the son-in-law of the Prophet, whose daughter 
Fatima he had married. The theme is a popular one in 
Persian art. The seizure of the land by Mohamed added 
considerably to his resources, and the booty was very 
rich. Moreover, he had now destroyed the last centre 
of Judaism in the vicinity of Medina, and henceforward 
there is little or no mention of the Jews. 

The '-'•Fulfilled Pilgrimage^'' a.h. 7 (629). — Perhaps 
there is no more extraordinary event in the history of 
the Prophet than the " Fulfilled Pilgrimage." In accord- 
ance with their agreement the Kureish vacated the city of 
Mecca for three days, and Mohamed at the head of 2000 
men performed the rites by encircling the sacred spot 
seven times, riding seven times between Safa and Marwa, 
and sacrificing the victims brought from Medina. On 
the following day the azan was sounded, and Mohamed 
led the service in the same manner as at Medina, while 
the Kureish from the adjacent hills looked down with 
wonder at the extraordinary spectacle. The pilgrimage 
undoubtedly augmented the prestige of the Prophet, who 
was shortly afterwards joined by Khali d, the great general, 
and by other men of importance. 

The Battle of Muta, a.h. 8 (629). — The raids from 
Medina now extended to the borders of Syria, and so 
great was the alarm inspired by Mohamed's activity that 
at Muta, near the Dead Sea, his main force of 3000 men 


was opposed by the imperial troops. Charged by a 
Roman phalanx supported by Arabs on either flank, Zayd, 
the commander, and his successors were killed one by one, 
and only the genius of Khalid saved the defeat from 
becoming a disaster. As it was, the losses were heavy. 

The Capture of Mecca^ a.h. 8 (630). — The defeat at 
Muta cannot have shaken the prestige of the Prophet 
very severely, since a few months later he crowned his 
successful career by suddenly marching on Mecca at the 
head of 10,000 men. No resistance was attempted, and 
as he treated his fellow-tribesmen with magnanimity, they 
became converts in large numbers. After superintending 
the destruction of the idols in the sacred enclosure, 
Mohamed gave orders for all private images to be broken. 
This was effected without difficulty, and thus without a 
single battle the sacred city of Mecca was won and with 
it the hegemony of Arabia. This achievement was com- 
pleted by the crushing of the Hawazin tribe which 
occupied the country to the south-east of Mecca. 

The Last Campaign of Mohamed^ a.h. 9 (630). — The 
campaign of Tebuk was the last undertaken by the Prophet 
in person. He heard that the Emperor was organizing 
a large force, and with remarkable courage and energy 
prepared to meet it. He assembled a powerful army, 
said to have numbered 30,000, of which one-third was 
cavalry, and marched to Tebuk, to the east of the Gulf of 
Akaba. There he learned that there was no truth in the 
rumours of invasion, and consequently directed his efforts 
to extending and consolidating his power. The Christian 
prince of Ayla, at the head of the Gulf of Akaba, sum- 
moned to submit and pay tribute, immediately complied, 
and with him a treaty was concluded. Duma was captured 
by Khalid, and its Christian chief embraced Islam. After 
these successes the Prophet returned home with greatly 
increased prestige, and when Tayif, the last town to resist 
him, surrendered, his power reached its zenith. 

The Final Orders of the Prophet, — At the end of a.h. 9 
(631) Mohamed promulgated at Mecca by the mouth of 
Ali the famous " Release," allowing idolaters four months 
in which to embrace Islam, and giving notice that in case 


of refusal they would be crushed. To Jews and Christians, 
as possessing revealed scriptures, slightly better terms were 
announced. They were, however, to be reduced to tribute 
and humbled. This proclamation was followed up by the 
despatch of embassies to every part of Arabia, the whole 
of which, including even distant Oman, submitted to the 
now all-powerful Prophet, and embraced Islam. 

The ^''Farewell Pilgrimage^'' a.h. io (630). — The 
venerable Prophet was sixty-three years of age and full 
of honour when he made what is known as the " Farewell 
Pilgrimage." This set the seal on his success, and it is 
impossible to follow him to it without sympathy and 
appreciation of his achievements. His farewell to the 
people of Mecca ends with the exclamation, " O Lord ! I 
have delivered my message and discharged my Ministry." 

The Death of Mohamed^ a.h. ii (632). — Shortly after 
his return from Mecca, Mohamed was seized with fever, 
and for some days suffered severely. One morning, as 
Abu Bekr was leading the prayers, the congregation was 
delighted by the appearance of the Prophet, who spoke to 
the people after the service. But this was a last effort, 
and the exhaustion it occasioned brought on his death. 

His Character, — No impartial student surveying the 
career and character of Mohamed can fail to acknowledge 
his loftiness of purpose, his moral courage, his sincerity, 
his simplicity, and his kindness. To these qualities must 
be added unsparing energy and a genius for diplomacy. 
Muir is well advised in distinguishing between the early 
period of adversity and the later years in which success 
and power were achieved ; for it was almost inevitable 
that as the Prophet became the ruler of Arabia the worldly 
side of his character should develop at the expense of 
the spiritual. Instances of cruelty and treachery are 
undoubtedly proved against him ; but it is always to be 
borne in mind that in judging this extraordinary man we 
must apply not the standard of our own time, but that 
of a period and of a world in which cruelty was rife. 
Like Solomon, whom he resembled in character, he became 
uxorious in his old age, and for this characteristic also the 
same allowance must be made. It is certain that he never 


lost the love and admiration of men of the highest 
character, such as Abu Bekr and Omar, and to the end he 
retained his simplicity, his kindliness, and his courtesy to 
rich and poor alike. Moreover, he continued throughout 
his career to proclaim himself " a simple prophet and a 
Warner," though he might easily have made higher claims. 

The introduction of Islam brought many benefits 
to the Arabs. It taught the unity of God, enjoined 
brotherly love towards all fellow -believers, proscribed 
infanticide, secured rights for women and consideration 
for slaves. Alcohol was strictly forbidden. Impartial 
observers have told me that in India Islam has raised 
millions of men in self-respect and other virtues to a 
wonderful extent, and I have already shown how benefi- 
cent was its eflFect upon the Arabs. In the case of the 
Mongols the change was no less marked, as may be seen 
by contrasting the savagery of Chengiz with the kind- 
ness, the consideration, and the justice of Ghazan, whose 
many virtues were undoubtedly due to his genuine con- 
version to Islam. In Afi*ica, too, when the negro adopts 
Islam he generally rises in the scale of humanity. While 
remaining an African, he is better dressed, better mannered, 
and altogether a better and cleaner man. On the other 
hand, a negro when Christianized is sometimes unable to 
assimilate our more complex civilization, and in such cases 
becomes a caricature of the European. These remarks 
apply to a certain extent to the Asiatic also, but in a lesser 
degree, because the Semite and the Aryan start from 
ancient civilizations of their own. 

If, as I believe, religion is made for man and not man 
for religion, it is impossible to withhold approval and 
admiration from a man whose achievements have been so 
great. But against these undoubted benefits of Islam 
there are some things to be set on the other side. The 
list includes polygamy, the seclusion and veiling of women, 
slavery, narrowness of thought, and harsh treatment of 
non-Moslems. As for polygamy, it is slowly dying out 
owing to progress and economic circumstances, and the 
veil too, with all that it stands for, is beginning to disappear 
in Turkey. It must be recollected that even in Christian 


Spain the women are partially secluded, and perhaps 


We come to slavery. In Persia, at any rate, slaves are 
kept only as domestic servants, and are particularly well 
treated, being with reason trusted more than hired servants. 
Can we, with a recollection of Hawkins, who bought 
negroes in Africa to sell in America, throw stones at 
slavery among Moslems ? I think not. Freedom of 
thought and private judgment are gradually asserting 
themselves among Moslems, just as among Roman 
Catholics, however much the mullas in the one case 
or the Pope in the other may deny these privileges. 
Moreover, until quite modern times it has been the 
general custom of man to persecute those from whom he 
differed on religious grounds, and the Moslems certainly 
have not treated Christians more harshly than the inquisi- 
tors did. Toleration is, in fact, a sentiment of recent 

If the lives of great men are studied, imperfections 
are invariably revealed, and in many cases the greater the 
man the more conspicuous the faults. Personally I hold 
that Mohamed was, with all his human frailties, one of 
the greatest of mankind ; that he was impelled by the 
highest motives to beat down idolatry and fill its place 
with the much higher conception of Islam, and that by so 
doing he rendered an immense service to the human race, 
a service to which I pay homage. 

The Koran, — The scriptures of Islam, known as the 
Koran,^ consist exclusively of the revelations which 
Mohamed claimed to receive through Gabriel as messages 
direct from God. These messages were received through- 
out the twenty-three years of his prophetical life, and were 
recited by Mohamed before his followers and committed 
both to memory and to writing. In the stage of culture 
which prevailed at that period in Arabia writing was a 
rare accomplishment, and the general belief is that the 
Prophet himself could neither read nor write ; memory 
was therefore much stronger than among civilized races, 

^ Koran signifies "reading aloud." The syllable Al which is occasionally prefixed 
is the Arabic for the definite article. 


and during the lifetime of Mohamed many of his followers 
had committed to memory the whole of the Koran. To- 
day the title of Hafiz^ which implies this sacred accom- 
plishment, is one of honour. But it must not be 
supposed that during Mohamed's life the order of the 
various chapters and verses was settled. Indeed we know 
that this was not the case, for Omar, after the overthrow 
of Moseilama, pointed out to Abu Bekr that the losses 
among the reciters of the Koran had been heavy, and 
suggested that its various portions should be collected. 
This pious task was entrusted to Zayd, the Chief Secretary 
of the Prophet, who sought out the fragments and 
gathered them together, " from date-leaves, from tablets of 
white stone and from the breasts of men." This was the 
ojfficial and authoritative edition ; but a generation later, 
under Othman, a second edition was prepared by a com- 
mittee consisting of Zayd and three members of the 
Kureish tribe. The original copy of the first edition was 
produced for this purpose, and a final authoritative edition 
was prepared, all existing copies being burned after its 
issue. In consequence of this care, there is no question 
whatever that the Koran, as read to-day all over the 
Moslem world, is identical with that published during the 
Caliphate of Othman. In the sequence of some of the 
verses there is confusion, but throughout there is no 
question as to the genuineness and accuracy of the verses. 
When we consider the times in which they had their 
origin this is extraordinary. 

The Koran is universally admitted to be written in 
the most perfect Arabic, the dialect of the Kureish tribe, 
and it is held to be as much a masterpiece of literature as 
we esteem our Bible to be. Moreover, the Koran is read 
to-day exactly as it was dictated by Mohamed, whereas 
we cannot deny that the Bible is a translation. 

To enlarge upon the doctrine preached in the Koran 
would be beyond the scope of this work. The one aim 
and object of Mohamed in the Meccan suras was to 
convert his fellow-countrymen from idolatry to the worship 
of one God. To eflFect this, the Prophet, who deeply felt 
his responsibility, extolled the omnipotence of God and 

24 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, xlv 

derided the impotence of the idols. The penalties of 
hell and the pleasures of Paradise are graphically described, 
and throughout, as Nicholson says, " his genius proclaims 
itself by grand lyrical outbursts." As an example I quote 
one of the early suras^ which runs : 

When the Sky shall be severed, 

And when the Stars shall be shivered, 

And when the Seas to mingle shall be suffered, 

And when the graves shall be uncovered — 

A soul shall know that which it hath deferred or delivered.^ 

O Man, what beguiled thee against thy gracious Master to rebel. 

Who created thee and fashioned thee right and thy frame did fairly 

build ? 
He composed thee in whatever form he willed. 
Nay, but you disbelieve in the Ordeal ! ^ 
Verily over you are Recorders honourable, 
Your deeds inscribing without fail. 

To conclude, the revelations at Medina deal with 
what may be termed the business side of religion ; laws, 
ordinances, and manifestos all finding place side by side 
with occasional but rare outbursts of flaming genius. 
Yet behind it all were the call to monotheism and the 
denunciation of idolatry, on which the Koran can claim, 
and justly claim, to stand. 

^ I.e. what it has done or left undone. 
2 The Last Judgment. 

i^-^'>w- ^1^6 

♦ > 



Father of Hasan, Father of Dust, The Victorious Lion of Allah, The Commander 
of the Faithful, Ali son of Abu Talib, on Him be Peace ! 

The Titles of Ali. 
(Through the courtesy of H.E. the Persian Minister.) 



Politically Persia ceased for a while to enjoy a separate national existence, 
being merged in that great Muhammadan Empire which stretched from 
Gibraltar to the Jaxartes, but in the intellectual domain she soon began to 
assert the supremacy to which the ability and subtlety of her people entitled 
her. — Browne. 

The Period of the Caliphate^ a.d. 632-1258. — The 
Caliphate began with the election of Abu Bekr in a.d. 632 
and lasted until a.d. 1258, when Hulagu Khan sacked 
Baghdad and put Motasim Billah to death. For nearly 
three centuries after this catastrophe the title of Caliph 
was perpetuated in Egypt by descendants of the House 
of Abbas who lived under the protection of its Mameluke 
rulers, until in a.d. 1517 Sultan Selim, the Osmanli, having 
conquered the Mameluke dynasty, induced the helpless 
Caliph to transfer to him the title and insignia. It is 
on this transaction (recorded in Chapter LXII.) that the 
Sultans of Turkey base their claim to the sacred position 
of Caliph and to other high titles. 

The Caliphate falls into three well-defined periods : 



1. That of the First Four Caliphs, a.d. 632-661, the 
period of the Theocracy of I slam. ^ 

2. The Omayyad Caliphs a.d. 661-749, the period of 

Pagan Reaction. 

3. The Abbasid Caliphs, a.d. 749-1258, the period 

of Persian Ascendancy. 

The Genealogical Table of the Kureish, — In order^ to 
show the descent of the various dynasties, and their claims 
of kinship with the Prophet, it is convenient to give the 
following genealogical table, which is taken from Lane- 
Poole's Mohamedan Dynasties^ an invaluable guide to the 
student : 




Abdul Muttalib 




Abu Talib 




(the Prophet) 

Fatima = AH 







The Election of Abu Bekr, — Even before the Prophet 
was buried, there was very nearly bloodshed in Medina at 
the meeting at which Abu Bekr was chosen to be the 
Caliph,^ or " Successor " of the Prophet. He was sixty 
years old at the time of his election, and was naturally of 
a mild character. But belief in the Prophet filled him with 
a moral courage unsurpassed in the records of history. 

^ Vide Browne, op. c'lt. p. 210. 
2 Khalifa Rasul lllah^ or " Successor of the Prophet of God," is the full title. 


The Rebellions^ a.h. ii (632). — Before his illness the 
Prophet had given orders for an expedition to avenge the 
disaster of Muta ; but Osama, its commander, on hearing 
of the calamity which had befallen Islam, brought back the 
banner entrusted to him. Abu Bekr showed his fearless- 
ness by immediately insisting that this expedition should 
be carried through, although it left the city almost defence- 
less, and his decision was justified by the result. Yet the 
courage it showed was extraordinary ; for insurrections 
broke out all over Arabia, and only Medina, Mecca, and 
Tayif stood firm for Islam. Medina itself was besieged, 
or rather blockaded, by neighbouring tribes, but Abu Bekr 
called out every man capable of bearing arms, attacked the 
Beduins, and drove them off with slaughter. As Muir 
points out, defeat at this juncture might well have in- 
volved the disappearance of Islam, and to Abu Bekr must 
be given all credit for the victory. After two months of 
serious danger the return of Osama as a victor enabled 
the Caliph, whose prestige must have been enormously 
enhanced, to crush the insurrections. 

With supreme confidence Abu Bekr summoned the 
leaders of Islam, and, dividing Arabia into eleven districts, 
despatched a column to each. The most important 
command was given to Khalid, whose first act was to 
march north to attack the Beni Tayy and Beni Asad, who 
had espoused the cause of Toleiha, a rival prophet. The 
Beni Tayy were won over by diplomacy, while the Beni 
Asad deserted their Prophet in the battle and then 

In a second campaign the Beni Temim were massacred 
by Khalid. But his hardest fight was with Moseilama, a 
rival Prophet, who was supported by the Beni Hanifa of 
Yemama, at the back of Al-Katif, a tribe which numbered 
40,000 fighting men. The struggle was desperate, and 
in the first charge the Moslems were beaten back to 
their camp. But they rallied and broke the Beni Hanifa, 
who took refuge in a walled garden. The Moslem heroes 
leapt down among them, and the " Garden of Death," 
as it was termed from the slaughter, was never forgotten. 
In the slaughter, which was terrible on both sides, the 


Moslems lost 1200 men, among whom were thirty-nine 
warriors bearing the honoured title of Ashah or " Com- 
panions " of the Prophet. This was the crowning victory, 
and a few months later, within a year of Mohamed's 
death, peace reigned once again in Arabia, every district 
of which had been visited by the irresistible columns of 

Abu Bekr. 

The Battle on the Termuk, a.h. 13 (634). — In Chap- 
ter XLIII. I have confined myself to the campaigns waged 
against Iran ; it will be appropriate here to give a brief 
account of the wonderful exploits of Islam in other fields. 
It must be borne in mind that almost our sole authority 
for these is Arab tradition. But although in details this 
is naturally partial and one-sided, there is little or no 
doubt as to the main facts. 

The victories of Abu Bekr left the Arab tribes 
defeated and sullen ; but the call to war and plunder 
welded them together and, as success followed success, 
tribe after tribe not only sent out its fighting men, 
but marched in its entirety to settle in more fertile lands. 

The strategy of the Caliph in attacking the Roman 
and Persian Empires simultaneously must have seemed to 
be midsummer madness, and, judged by all ordinary 
canons, so it was. But in the end the madmen won, 
although they were compelled from time to time to neglect 
one field of operations in order to ensure success in 

In A.H. 12 (633) Khalid started on his victorious 
career against the Persian Empire, and in the same year a 
second Khalid, son of Said, was despatched with instruc- 
tions to organize the friendly tribes on the Syrian frontier, 
but to avoid fighting unless attacked. Having in a.h. 13 
(634) incautiously pushed northwards towards Damascus, 
he found his communications cut near the Sea of Tiberias, 
and thereupon fled panic-stricken, leaving his camp to the 
enemy. The retreating Arabs were rallied by Ikrima, 
who had already distinguished himself in the Hadramaut, 
and Abu Bekr sent such large reinforcements that the 
army of Syria became the main army of Islam, as compared 
with the weak force entrusted to Khalid. We read that 


there were more than one thousand " Companions *' in 
its ranks. Organized into four divisions, with a total 
strength of 30,000, apart from a reserve of 6000 men 
under Ikrima, it marched north, and working inde- 
pendently eventually threatened Syria from Hebron on 
the west to Damascus on the east. 

Heraclius despatched four armies to overwhelm the 
detached divisions, which thereupon united on the left 
bank of the Yermuk, an eastern tributary of the Jordan. 
There the two hosts faced one another for months, with- 
out risking any decisive action. Abu Bekr in great 
anxiety ordered Khalid to leave Irak, and that general, 
with 9000 men, made one of the greatest desert marches 
on record and joined the Syrian army. In a.h. 13 (634) 
he gained a complete victory, known as the battle of 
Wakusa, over a vastly superior Byzantine ai^my. Thou- 
sands of the enemy were driven over a chasm, and the 
victory, although purchased at heavy cost, won Syria for 

The Death of Abu Bekr and the Accession of Omar^ 
A.H. 13 (634). — After Abu Bekr had ruled Islam for two 
years he felt his end approaching, and appointed Omar his 
successor. He then continued to occupy himself with 
public business until his death, which removed from the 
stage one of the noblest, simplest, and bravest characters 
known in history. Among his favourite aphorisms was 
the following : " One of the best of men is he who 
rejoices over a penitent, prays for a sinner, and aids a 
charitable man in his good work." 

The first act of Omar was to remove Khalid from 
his command, after which he raised reinforcements to aid 
the army in the field by every possible means. As long 
as he lived the forces of Islam were directed with consum- 
mate skill. 

The Capture of Damascus^ a.h. 14 (635). — Damascus, 
one of the oldest cities in the world, was the goal of the 
victorious Arabs. Being unversed in the art of besieging, 
they made no scientific approaches but merely invested 
the city, and for months little or no progress was effected. 
Finally Khalid, who although deposed from the command 


was still the real leader, crossed the moat by night on 
inflated skins, escaladed the battlements, and captured the 
city. A second victory on the plain of Esdraelon ended 
the campaign and riveted the Moslem yoke on Syria. 
Reinforcements were then despatched to Irak, where they 
arrived just in time to win the battle of Cadesia. 

The Capture of Antioch and the Capitulation of 
Jerusalem, a.h. 15 (636).— After the battle of the Jordan 
the Moslems marched northwards and besieged Hims, the 
ancient Emessa, which capitulated. Antioch, too, surren- 
dered after a batde fought outside its walls, and Heraclius, 
scarcely more than a decade after his splendid victories 
over Persia, withdrew from Syria, leaving Jerusalem to 
its fate. The Holy City of Christendom capitulated in 
A.H. 15 (636), and Omar arrived in person to receive its 
submission. He marked this historical event by acts of 
clemency and by the foundation of the mosque which bears 
his name to-day. 

The Conquest of Egypt^ A,n, 19-20 (640-641). — While 
the Arabs were making good their position in South- 
western Persia before advancing on to the Iranian plateau, 
Amr started from Palestine to invade Egypt with a force 
of only 4000 men. Omar, alarmed at the risk that was 
being run, at first thought of recalling his daring general, 
but on realizing that this was impossible sent him consider- 
able reinforcements. With an army now 15,000 strong 
he had the country at his mercy. He first annexed 
Upper Egypt, and then marched on Alexandria, the 
second city of the Byzantine Empire, to which he laid 
siege. The death of Heraclius, occurring at this juncture, 
prevented the despatch of a relieving squadron, and the 
city capitulated on terms. Not content with these con- 
quests, the forces of Amr marched west along the southern 
coast of the Mediterranean as far as Tripoli. 

The Assassination of Omar^ a.h. 23 (644). — By this 
time the power of Islam had been firmly established. 
The empire of the Chosroes had been annexed and that 
of Byzantium defeated and deprived of its fairest and 
richest provinces. Omar, under whose master mind 
these wonderful campaigns had been conducted with 


entire success, had been Caliph for ten years and, although 
sixty years old, was still full of energy when an assassin's 
knife laid him low. A Persian slave, known as Abu 
Lulu, complained to the Caliph that he was assessed too 
heavily by his master at two dirhems a day. Omar, who 
knew the man, replied that for a clever artificer like him, 
who was believed to be able to construct a mill driven by 
wind,^ the amount was not excessive. Abu Lulu made a 
threatening reply, and the following morning stabbed the 
Caliph while he was leading the prayers in the mosque. 

Thus died the greatest Moslem after the founder of 
the religion himself, a man of courage, simplicity, sagacity, 
and a passion for justice and duty,^ a combination of 
qualities which eminently fitted him to control the 
destinies of Islam during the critical decade of conquest. 
Nevertheless in Persia the name of Omar, is execrated, 
and the anniversary of his death is celebrated as a day of 
rejoicing by Persians. Until recently they were accus- 
tomed to burn the efl5gy of the Caliph who conquered 

The Accession of Othman^ a.h. 24 (644). — Omar upon 
his death -bed expressed the wish that Abd-al- Rahman 
should be his successor, but he refused, and the matter 
was referred to a body of electors. In the end, how- 
ever, Abd-al-Rahman was permitted to make the choice. 
For long he wavered between Ali and Othman, but 
finally declared the latter to be the Caliph. Othman's 
reign lasted for twelve years, but from the outset it was 
clear that he did not possess the necessary qualities for 
dealing effectively with a diflicult situation. Even under 
the iron rule of Omar it was impossible to curb the 
insubordinate spirit shown by the Arabs of Kufa and 
Basra. The best hope lay in maintaining the prestige of 
the Kureish tribe, but this powerful instrument was 
weakened through the impolicy of Othman, who favoured 
his own branch, the Omayyad, with the result that the 
influence of the Kureish was paralysed by divisions which 
were widened by lapse of time. 

1 This 19 believed to be the earliest mention of a windmill. Vide also Chapter I. 

2 It was a favourite maxim of Omar's that " the most miserable Governor is he 
whose subjects are miserable." 


The Expansion of Islam to the West^ a.h. 25-31 (646- 

652). The limits of Moslem expansion had not yet been 

reached, and under Abu Sarh, a foster-brother of Othman, 
the Arabs pushed west of Barca and even threatened 
Carthage, whose Governor was defeated in a hard-fought 
battle. This period, too, saw the launching of the first 
Moslem fleet, in a.h. 28 (649). Its initial enterprise 
resulted in the capture of Cyprus, and three years later it 
won a naval victory oflF Alexandria, under the command 

of Abu Sarh. 

The Campaigns in Persia^ a.h. 31 (652). — The death 
of Omar had been the signal in Persia for a widespread 
but badly organized insurrection, and the Moslem leaders 
sought not only to reconquer what had been lost but to 
extend the sway of Islam eastwards. Ibn Aamir, the 
Governor of Basra, who was entrusted with the conduct 
of the campaign, first reduced the province of Fars, and 
then marched across the Lut and invaded the province of 
Kuhistan, of which he obtained possession. After these 
successes he sent a summons to submit to the Governor 
of Herat, who craftily replied that he would do so when 
Nishapur was taken. Ibn Aamir proceeded to invest 
Nishapur, while at the same time devastating the neigh- 
bouring valley .of Tus. His troops suffered severely 
from the cold but he reduced the city by blockade, and its 
Governor paid a sum of 700,000 dinars, together with 
many articles of value. Thereupon the Governors of 
Herat and of Merv both made terms. It was in this 
same year that, as already mentioned, Yezdigird was 
murdered, and his death must have been a great relief to 
the Caliph. Ibn Aamir, pressing constantly eastwards, won 
a great victory on the C3xus, which led to the submission 
of Balkh and other outlying provinces of the Persian 
Empire. His generals crossed the Hindu Kush, subdued 
Kabul, and conquered the Sistan and Kerman provinces. 
The advance, however, was not unchequered by reverse, 
for the Arabs were defeated by the Khazars in Azerbaijan, 
and an entire army perished in the snows of Kerman.^ 

^ I would locate the scene of this disaster in Sardu, as the Arabs occupied Jiruft. 
Vide Yule's Marco Polo (Cordier's edition), vol. i. p. 313. 


The Murder of Othman, a.h. 35 (656). — As the years 
went by dissatisfaction with Othman grew deeper. His 
favouritism towards his own kinsmen of the Omayyad 
branch was resented by the Hashimite branch at a time 
when the Beduins of Kufa and Basra were ready to rise 
against the supremacy of the Kureish. In a.h. 34 (655) 
Said, the Governor of Kufa, was expelled by its ever- 
turbulent inhabitants, and Othman, instead of inflicting 
any punishment, weakly yielded to the storm and 
appointed another Governor. 

In the following year forces from Kufa, Basra, and 
Egypt converged on Medina, and after an initial failure 
besieged the palace. The octogenarian Caliph was 
deserted by the leading men of the city and murdered, 
but met his end with dignity and courage. 

The Election of All ^ a.h. 35 (656). — Aft&r this ghastly 
tragedy there was a reign of terror in Medina, during 
which Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, was 
elected Caliph. As a boy he had been one of the earliest 
converts to Islam, and during the Prophet's life he had 
shown great heroism and conspicuous ability on the battle- 
field. But of late years he had lived at Medina, where 
he enjoyed respect, but had taken no leading part in 
public aflFairs. 

Muavia^ the Governor of Syria, — Among the ablest 
and most powerful of the Arab chiefs was Muavia, whose 
father, Abu Sofian, had commanded the Kureish at the 
battle of Ohod, but had afterwards been converted to 
Islam. Muavia, who was destined to found the Omayyad 
dynasty, had distinguished himself in the early campaigns, 
and had been appointed by Omar to the governorship of 
Syria, a post which he held for many years. He had 
visited Medina before the assassination of his kinsman 
Othman, and had begged to be allowed to lead a Syrian 
army to his defence, but the aged Caliph had refused 
his proffered aid. After the murder Muavia acquired 
possession of Othman's blood-stained shirt and hung it 
up in the mosque at Damascus, but he refrained from 
any definite action until he knew what course Ali would 



The Proclamation of War against Muavia by Ali^^ a.h. 

35 (656). — Upon his election to the Caliphate Ali was 
advised to pursue and punish the assassins, but declined 
on the ground that he lacked the power. At the same 
time he was unwise enough to dismiss Muavia, in spite 
of entreaties to leave him in his post until his own 
position was secure. Muavia thereupon encouraged the 
belief that Ali was in collusion with the murderers, and 
consequently no other course was open to the newly 
elected Caliph but to proclaim war against him. 

The Battle of the Camel^ a.h. 36 (656). — Ali was un- 
fortunate in having Ayesha, the favourite wife of the 
Prophet, as his enemy. She was used as a tool by 
Talha^ and Zobayr, who seized Basra after a struggle 
with the loyalists. Upon the receipt of reinforcements 
from Kufa, Ali advanced on Basra and attempted to 
avoid civil war, but failed owing to an attack brought on 
by the murderers of Othman. Consequently, the Battle 
of the Camel, so called from Ayesha' s appearance in the 
fighting line in a camel litter, was fought with intense 
bitterness and with terrible losses on both sides. Talha 
and Zobayr were killed and Ayesha was captured. The 
vanquished were treated with magnanimity, but the battle 
was a heavy blow to the best interests of Islam, and 
might have been avoided had Ali from the first denounced 
the assassins of Othman and refused to have any dealings 
with them. 

The Battle of Siffin, a.h. 37 (657). — After his victory 
at Basra, Ali proceeded to Kufa, which he made his 
capital. Organizing a large army, he marched up the 
Tigris and traversed the desert of Mesopotamia to the 
Euphrates, which he crossed. Muavia was ready with a 
powerful force, and after a fruitless attempt at reconcilia- 
tion and much desultory skirmishing the battle of Siffin 
was fought in A.H. 37 (657). This desperate combat was 
distinguished by many feats of courage and raged for 
three days without decisive result. Muavia, becoming 
disheartened, agreed to a stratagem suggested by Amr, 
and caused his men to advance with scrolls of the Koran 

1 Talb^ had saved Mohamed's life at Ohod. 


fixed to their lances, and crying out : " The law of the 
Lord ! Let that decide between us ! " Ali, realizing 
that it was only a ruse, would not stop the conflict, but 
his fanatical soldiers threatened to desert him unless he 
agreed to appoint an arbitrator. Even in this his hand 
was forced, since he was not allowed a free choice, but was 
compelled to place his interests in the hands of Abu 
Musa, a supporter who was at best but lukewarm. 

The Arbitration, a.h, 37 (658). — Duma in the heart of 
the desert was the place appointed for the momentous 
decision, and thither Amr, the conqueror of Egypt, who 
represented Muavia, and Abu Musa both proceeded, 
followed by thousands of Arabs from both sides who 
assembled to hear the judgment. The two umpires 
agreed in private that both Ali and Muavia should be set 
aside and a fresh election held. Abu Musa gave this 
decision in public, but the astute Amr, who spoke after 
him, declared that he agreed to the deposition of Ali but 
confirmed Muavia as the heir of Othman, the avenger of 
his blood, and the best entitled to succeed as Caliph. 
This was an astonishing success for Muavia, who was 
proclaimed Caliph at Damascus, and a heavy blow for Ali, 
whose supporters, however, did not counsel him to resign 
the Caliphate. 

The Kharijites, — Though destined after lapse of time 
to be revered as the equal of Mohamed by the Persian 
nation, Ali was most unfortunate during his life. No 
sooner had he been obliged, much against his own 
judgment, to accept arbitration than 12,000 of his 
soldiers separated themselves from the army on the 
ground that the cause of Islam had been abandoned to 
godless arbitrators, swearing that they would serve no 
Caliph, and insisting on " No rule but that of the Lord 
alone." Ali showed considerable patience, but before 
setting out after the arbitrament to attack Muavia, he 
was forced to deal with these fanatical sectaries, who 
were committing horrible excesses of every kind. The 
majority were allowed to disperse, but 1800 refused all 
terms and were killed to a man. The Kharijites or 
^* Separatists " appeared again and again, not only in Irak . 


but also ill Persia, the remote Kerman province in 
particular being periodically troubled by the appearance 
of these visionaries in dangerously large bands. 

The Last Tears of Alts Caliphate, — Ali had raised a 
large force for invading Syria once more, but after the 
diversion against the Kharijites it melted away so rapidly 
that the entire expedition had to be abandoned. The 
Arabs, indeed, were curiously indifferent to Ali. In 
the following year, a.h. 38 (658), he lost Egypt through 
an unwise change of Governors, and this misfortune 
preyed upon his mind ; but he made no grand effort to 
retrieve his position. In the course of the same year 
rebellion was stirred up in Southern Persia by Khirrit, an 
Arab chief whose views resembled those of the Kharijites. 
Up to this point, it would seem, only Moslems had 
fought in these civil wars, but Khirrit raised Persians, 
Kurds, and Christians, and drove the Arab Governor out 
of Pars, and much blood was shed before he was slain 
and order re-established. Ziad, an illegitimate half- 
brother of Muavia, whom Ali now appointed to Pars, 
showed great capacity both in restoring peace and in the 
administration of the country ; indeed he was compared 
to Noshirwan. In a.h. 40 (660) Ali made peace with 
Muavia, and it seemed as though at last his troubles were 

His Assassination^ a.h. 40 (661). — The fanatical Khari- 
jites, seeing that they could not force their doctrines on 
the empire, were in hopeless mood. Three of them 
discussed the gloomy situation, and resolved each to kill 
a leader of Islam, Ali, Muavia, and Amr being the 
selected victims. Amr escaped through being absent on 
the day they had fixed for the deed, Muavia was wounded 
and recovered, but Ali was mortally stabbed. With the 
magnanimity which characterized him, he gave orders 
that, if he died, the assassin should be executed but not 
tortured. After making his will, the unfortunate Caliph 
passed away and with him ended the period of theocracy 
in Islam. 

His Character. — Ali stands out as the Caliph who 
was too noble and high-minded for his surroundings. 

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He refused to be guided by the dictates of expediency 
and was, in consequence, no match for his adroit and in- 
triguing rival Muavia, who would stoop to the lowest and 
most criminal means to gain his purpose. At the same 
time he was narrow, with a vein of indecision which at 
times gave place to obstinacy. His rigid insistence on 
honesty in accounts was much resented by the greedy 
Arabs who plundered the empire. But his perfect integrity 
and devotion to high ideals, combined with his simplicity 
and unassuming manners, make him a most attractive 
figure, and the people of Persia have chosen wisely in 
making him what we may term their Patron Saint, though, 
indeed, he is much more than that. 

Some of his aphorisms are : '' A liberal education is 
better than gold," to which was added, "No learning 
availeth if common sense goeth not with-it"; "The 
wealth of a wise man is in his wisdom, and the wealth of 
a fool is in his possessions " ; " No words are good unless 
good deeds go with them." 

The Position of Persia, — " Hellenism," says Noldeke, 
" never touched more than the surface of Persian life, but 
Iran was penetrated to the core by Arabian religion and 
Arabian ways." This weighty saying should be constantly 
borne in mind in considering the consequences of the 
conquest of Persia by the Arabs, for it is the key to the 
whole situation. After the battle of Nahavand Persian 
resistance to the Arabs was merely local and the country 
was subdued without any great difficulty, although a 
general insurrection broke out upon the death of Omar 
and there were occasional risings during the Caliphate of 
Ali. The Zoroastrians were not offered the choice 
between Islam and the sword, as is generally supposed, 
but were permitted to retain their religion on the payment 
of a poll-tax. Salman, who has already been mentioned 
as fortifying Medina against the Kureish, was the earliest 
Persian convert, and was numbered among the "Com- 
panions" of the Prophet. His example was followed 
later on by thousands, among whom was a body of 
Daylamite soldiers who embraced Islam and settled at 
Kufa. But even conversion brought no true equality, 

38 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, xlvi 

and in order to secure their lives and property the Persian 
nobles had to humble their pride and become clients of 
the Arabs. The contempt which the conquerors displayed 
towards the people they subdued was like that of the 
Normans for the conquered Saxons, and is exemplified in 
their bitter maxim, " Three things only stop prayer : the 
passing of a client, an ass, or a dog.*' ^ On the other 
hand, the finances of the country were modelled on the 
Persian system and the administration was manned by 
Persians in spite of eflForts to keep them out. 

We read of Zoroastrians who fled to remote Kuhistan, 
the central portion of modern Khorasan, and of some who 
even emigrated by way of Hormuz to India. But the 
emigrants were few in number, and from references which 
abound in the Arab chroniclers it is clear that fire temples 
and Zoroastrian communities existed in many parts of 
Persia until comparatively recent times. To-day the only 
two important bodies of adherents to '' the good religion *' 
reside near Yezd and Kerman ; but I recollect being in- 
formed that the inhabitants of various villages to the 
north-west of Yezd had not been converted to Islam until 
early in the nineteenth century.^ 

Although Persia ceased for a time to exist as an 
independent state, she soon asserted her intellectual 
superiority over the Arabs, whom, as the centuries went 
by, lack of education and capacity drove back to the 
deserts from which they had originally issued. At the 
same time the contemptuous treatment of the Persians 
was persisted in for many generations. 

1 Vide Jurji Zaydan's History of Islamic Chilization, p. 70 (Gibb Memorial). 

^ Ten Thousand Miles, etc., p. 156. 

♦ «# 

(Through the courtesy of H.E. the Persian Minister.) 



The ship IS broken, shattered by the storm of Kerbela ; 
Fallen in the dust and blood on the field of Kerbela. 
If the Eyes of the World openly wept 
The blood would have risen above the Arch of Kerbela. 

From the Ele^ of Muhtasham. 

The Accession of Hasan and his Abdication^ a.h. 40 
(661). — Upon the death of AH, Hasan, his eldest son 
by Fatima, was elected Caliph. Muavia prepared to 
march against Kufa, where an army 40,000 strong rallied 
to support the claims of the house of Ali. But Hasan, 
unworthy son of a noble father, was more occupied with 
the pleasures of the harem than with the toils of adminis- 
tration or the dangers of war. He sent a vanguard of 
12,000 men to the front and kept the main body behind 
at Madain, where he himself remained dallying among 
the gardens, afraid to try his fortune on the battlefield. 
On a false report that the vanguard had been cut to 
pieces, the fickle Kufans looted the camp of the Caliph 
and attempted to seize his person, hoping to make good 



terms for themselves with his rival. Panic-stricken, 
Hasan wrote hurriedly to Muavia announcing his sub- 
mission. He offered to abdicate and make Medina his 
home if granted the contents of the treasury at Kufa and 
the revenues of a Persian province ; adding, however, the 
further stipulation that the imprecations against his dead 
father should cease to form a part of the public prayers. 
Muavia made no difficulty about these terms, except that 
he refused to stop the imprecations against Ali. He 
undertook, however, to arrange that they should never be 
heard by Ali's son. 

Content with this, Hasan, accompanied by his enor- 
mous harem, quitted Kufa without regret and passed off 
the stage into seclusion at Medina, where he died some 
eight years later from poison administered by one of his 
wives. Persian tradition represents the crime as instigated 
by Muavia, but of this there is no proof ; on the contrary, 
it was to his interest that the family should continue to 
have a harmless voluptuary as its head. 

The Death-bed Warning of Muavia to Tezid^ a.h. 6i 
(680). — On his death-bed Muavia sent a message to 
Yezid, his son and destined successor, warning him of 
the troubles which lay before him. The message ran, " As 
for Husayn, the restless men of Irak will give him no 
peace till he attempt the empire ; when thou hast gotten 
the victory, deal gently with him, for truly the blood of 
the Prophet runneth in his veins. It is Abdulla son of 
Zobayr that I fear the most for thee. Fierce as the lion, 
crafty as the fox, destroy him root and branch." Had 
the dying Caliph's advice been followed, the course of 
history would have been affected. 

The Invitation to Husayn from the Inhabitants of Kufa. — 
The news of Muavia' s death produced, exactly as that 
astute ruler had predicted, a strong feeling at Kufa in 
favour of Hasan's younger brother Husayn, who was 
now the head of the house of Ali, and letters were written 
promising the support of the entire population of Irak, if 
he would proceed to Kufa. On a strict view of the case 
Husayn put himself entirely in the wrong by listening to 
these treasonable overtures ; but when all the circum- 


stances are considered it is difficult to blame him for 
championing the rights of his house, which an unworthy 
brother had bartered for money and ignoble ease. More- 
over, Husayn was probably in straitened circumstances, 
owing to his elder brother's action in appropriating to his 
own use the greater part of the family income, while, 
nevertheless, as head of the family, he had become re- 
sponsible for maintaining not only his own wives and 
children but also those of his brothers and other relatives. 

The true friends of the house of Ali at Mecca begged 
Husayn not to trust to the fickle Kufans, and perhaps 
their influence would have prevailed but for the interested 
advice of Abdulla ibn Zobayr, who clearly saw that his 
own ambition to attain the Caliphate could never be 
realized as long as Husayn lived. 

The March on Kufa, — Husayn, desirdus of testing 
public sentiment at Kufa, sent his cousin Muslim ahead 
to rally his adherents ; but ObayduUa, who had been 
appointed to the governorship, seized and killed the 
envoy. The son of Ali may well have been dismayed on 
learning the terrible news, which made his expedition 
almost hopeless. But he doubtless realized that he had 
gone too far to retreat, while his relations clamoured to 
avenge the death of Muslim. Consequently a little party 
of thirty horse and forty foot — the numerical weakness 
was a sign of poverty — quitted Mecca and marched north 
to Kufa. As if to make the military conditions still more 
unfavourable, this tiny force was accompanied by women 
and children. The messages received on the way were 
more and more discouraging, and the situation was well 
summed up by a traveller coming from Kufa, who ex- 
claimed, " The heart of the city is with thee, but its sword 
is against thee." The Beduins at first rallied to the 
standard of Husayn, but finding the position hopeless, 
gradually deserted the doomed band. 

As they approached Kufa, a chief named Al Hurr 
barred their farther progress, but courteously intimated 
that they might move either to the left or to the right. 
Accordingly, leaving Kufa to the right, they made a some- 
what aimless detour round the city until their farther 


progress was arrested by Amr, who, according to Persian 
legend, was bribed by the promise of the governorship of 
Rei to lead the troops against Husayn. In true Arab 
fashion many interviews took place, in the course of which 
Husayn offered to submit, on condition that he was either 
permitted to return home or sent to Damascus. Obay- 
dulla, seeing the prey in his grasp, refused consent to any 
conditions and sent Shimr^ — whose name is perhaps the 
most execrated in Persia — to force Amr to seize the 
Pretender's party, or to supersede him if he declined to 

The Tragedy, — On the tenth of the month of Moharram 
A.H. 6 1 (680), the closing scene was enacted on the plain 
where the city of Kerbela subsequently grew up round the 
tomb — known as Mashhad^ or " Place of Martyrdom ** — 
of Husayn ; it was built as a memorial of the tragedy. 
Cut off from the river and with only a rough barricade to 
protect their rear composed of tents pegged together and 
some reeds and tamarisk, the little band prepared to fight 
to the death, with a heroism that challenges our admira- 
tion through all the centuries that have since passed. 
Tradition says that before the battle joined Al Hurr left 
the ranks of the Kufans and ranged himself on the side of 
Husayn, exclaiming, " Alas for you ! you invited him and 
he came, and you not only deceived him, but are now 
come out to fight against him. Nay, you have hindered 
him and his wives and his family from the water of the 
Euphrates, where Jews and Christians and Sabeans drink, 
and where pigs and dogs disport themselves ! " 

The combat was hopelessly uneven from the begin- 
ning ; deadly arrows flew from thousands of bows and 
kinsman after kinsman fell. Husayn at first was in- 
tentionally spared, but, as he was plainly determined to 
die rather than submit, he too was attacked in the end, 
his tents were set on fire, and he retreated to the river, 
burning with thirst. Here Shimr and some of the cavalry 
closed in upon him ; he was mortally wounded by an 

1 I have seen the man who acted the part of Shimr at the Passion Play set on and 
beaten. Breaking away, he rushed to the Governor-General for protection, screaming 
with fear and exclaiming, " I am not Shimr, but Your Excellency's cook ! " Cases are 
known in which players acting the part of Shimr have been killed. 


arrow, and then in a calculated burst of savagery was 
ridden over by the horsemen. Not a fighting man was 
left alive, but like the defenders of Thermopylae they 
left deathless fame behind them. When the seventy 
heads were brought to ObayduUa, and he callously turned 
that of Husayn over with his staff, the voice of an aged 
Arab rose in protest. " Gently ! '' he said ; *' it is the 
grandson of the Prophet. By Allah ! I have seen these 
very lips kissed by the blessed mouth of Mohamed ! '' 

The Journey to Damascus and the Return to Medina, — 
The two little sons of Husayn, Ali Asghar and Husayn, 
his two daughters, and his sister were sent to Damascus. 
There the Caliph, having secured the destruction of the 
family, disowned responsibility for the acts of his officials 
and entertained the orphans with respect and considera- 
tion until arrangements were made for th^ir return to 
Medina. In that city they lived, pouring out the stories 
of their woes to the pilgrims who visited the tomb of the 
Prophet, until dark clouds of indignation gathered against 
the Omayyad dynasty. 

The Passion Plays, — This tragedy was the origin of the 
Passion Plays, which are acted annually not only in Persia, 
where Shiism is the official religion, but also throughout 
Asia wherever Shia Moslems gather together. I have 
been a spectator of these plays, and can testify that to 
listen to the shrill ululations of the women and the grief 
of the men is so moving that it is difficult not to execrate 
Shimr and Yezid as fervently as the rest of the audience. 
Indeed the Passion Plays represent a force of poignant 
grief which it would not be easy to estimate, and the 
scenes I have witnessed will remain unforgotten so long 
as I live.^ 

The Historical Basis of the Shia Sect, — It was as the 
result of this tragedy that the Shia or "Faction'* of 
Persia came into existence. It is asserted by Arabic 
writers, among the earliest being Al-Yakubi ^ of the ninth 

1 In chap. xii. of The Glory of the Shia fVorld I have attempted to give the tragedy 
from the Persian point of view. 

2 Ed. Houtsma, vol. ii. p. 293 (quoted from Browne's work). " Among the sons 
of Husayn were Ali Akbar, who was killed at TafF and left no offspring . . ., and 
Ali Asghar, whose mother was Harar, the daughter of Yezdigird, whom Husayn used to 
call Ghazala ('the Gazelle')." 



century of our era, and it is universally believed by 
Persians, that Husayn married the daughter of Yezdigird, 
who is known throughout Persia as " Shahr-bdnu " or 
the " Queen." She figures among the heroines in the 
Passion Plays, and Browne gives a translation of one of 
the parts in his usual felicitous verse : 

Born of the race of Yezdigird the King 

From Noshirwan my origin I trace. 

What time kind Fortune naught but joy did bring 

In Rei's proud city was my home and place. 

There in my father's palace once at night 

In sleep to me came Fatima " the Bright " ; 

" O Shahr-banu " — ^thus the vision cried — 

" I give thee to Husayn to be his bride ! " 

As the play proceeds, Shahr-bdnu is brought to Medina 
as a prisoner of war by Hasan, who treats her chivalrously. 
Omar, however, orders her to be sold as a slave. 

But Ali then appeared upon the scene, 
And cried, " Be silent, fool and coward mean ! 
These gentle women, traitor, void of grace, 
Shall not stand naked in the market-place ! " 
Light of mine eyes ! After such treatment dire, 
They gave me to Husayn, thy noble sire. 

In other words, as Alexander the Great is believed to be 
of Achaemenian descent on his mother's side, so the 
descendants of Husayn inherit the same royal blood 
through the illustrious Sasanian dynasty. Now the 
doctrine of the divine right of kings was fervently 
accepted by Persia under the Sasanian dynasty, as the 
previous chapters have shown, and there is no doubt 
that belief in the Sasanian origin of the descendants of 
Husayn has been the main cause for the faithful adherence 
of Persia to the house of Ali. 

Its Religious Basis and Doctrines. — But this important 
matter has a religious side. Ali was the first cousin and 
perhaps the first male convert of the Prophet. He was 
also his adopted son, and by marrying Fatima became his 
son-in-law. In other words, since the Prophet had no 
sons who grew up, the connexion of Ali with the founder 
of Islam was closer than that of any other man, and he 
was moreover much beloved by his father-in-law, whom 


(In the Mosque of Gauhar Shad at Meshed.) 
(Through the couitrsy of Lieut. O. Niederniayer. ) 


he served with conspicuous loyalty and courage. The 
Shias firmly believe that the angel Gabriel visited the 
Prophet at Mecca during the course of the "Farewell 
Pilgrimage" and instructed him to proclaim Ali as his 
successor. The ceremony was performed during the 
course of the return journey at the Pool of Khumm, 
where a throne was constructed from camel-saddles. Ali 
was set thereon by the Prophet, who then enfolded the 
" Lion of Allah *' ^ in such a close and long embrace that 
his virtues were transmitted to his illustrious son-in-law. 
This investiture Is annually commemorated in Persia as 
" the Festival of the Pool of Khumm.'' In accepting it 
as authoritative the Shias naturally reject as usurpers 
Abu Bekr, Omar, and Othman, and deem Ali and his 
descendants, the Imams,^ to be the only true successors 
of the Prophet. So exalted is Ali, the " Hand of God," 
that the saying runs, " Mohamed is a city of learning, 
Ali is its gate." 

The sacred Imams, whose nature knew no sin and 
whose bodies cast no shadow, are the intercessors between 
man and God. They are invested with supreme spiritual 
leadership and hold in consequence a far higher position 
than that of the prophets. It is believed that the twelfth 
Imam never died, but in a.h. 260 (873) disappeared into 
miraculous concealment, from which he will reappear on 
the Day of Judgment in the mosque of Gauhar Shad at 
Meshed, to be hailed as the Mahdi or " Guide " and to 
fill the earth with justice. 

It is needless to say that beliefs such as these render 
those who hold them bitterly hostile to the general body 
of Moslems, who rest their doctrine on the authority of the 
Prophet and the early Caliphs — including, of course, Ali. 
As will be seen later on, bloody wars have raged between 
the Sunnis or " Traditionists " and the Shias analogous to 
those between our Protestant ancestors and the Roman 
Catholics of Spain, and to-day union between these two 
great divisions of the Moslem world appears to be as 
unattainable as ever. 

1 One of the many titles of AH. 
2 Imam signifies a spiritual and temporal ruler and a leader by divine right. 

46 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, xlvh 

It remains to add that, in consequence of this doctrine 
of the Imams, the Shahs of Persia have no religious 
authority in their kingdom, whereas the Sultan of Turkey 
is the acknowledged Caliph among Sunnis. Indeed, the 
position of the Shahs since the downfall of the Safavi 
dynasty is theoretically that of usurpers, although in prac- 
tice they were absolute monarchs until the mystic word 
" constitution " was heard in Persia. It may further be 
observed that Shias make pilgrimages to Kerbela, the 
scene of the martyrdom of Husayn, and " Kerbelai " is a 
title which ranks only second to that of " Haji.'' They 
also visit the tomb of Ali at Najaf. In Persia the Sacred 
City and the Glory of the Shia World is Meshed, where, 
as described in Chapter L., Riza, the Eighth Imam, is 
buried, and " Meshedi '' is the third and last title of 
honour affected by Shia pilgrims. 

Omayyad Dirhem. 



Men of Kufa, I see before me heads ripe for the harvest and the reaper, 
I am he. I seem to myself to see blood between turbans and shoulders. I 
am not one of those who can be frightened by an inflated bag of skin, nor 
need any one think to squeeze me like dried figs. . . . The Prince of the 
Believers has spread before him the arrows of his quiver, and has tried every 
one of them by biting its wood. It is my wood he has found the hardest and 
the bitterest, and I am the arrow which he shoots against you. — The Speech 
of Hajjaj bin Yusuf. 

The Omayyad Dynasty, — In the preceding two chapters, 
and more especially in the last, events which have con- 
cerned Persia both from the religious and from the 
political aspect have been treated in some detail, and 
Muavia, the founder of the Omayyad dynasty, has been 
given a secondary position. But it would be impossible 
in a history of Persia, to ignore the importance of the 
Omayyad dynasty, which ruled the vast Moslem empire 
for nearly a century, and I have therefore devoted to it a 
special chapter. 

The Position of Muavia strengthened by the Adherence of 
Ziad, — Muavia began his reign in Syria in a.h. 35 (656), 
and he became Caliph of the entire Moslem world upon 
the abdication of Hasan in a.h. 40 (661), but it was not 
until two years later that he entered into possession of 
all the lands of the Caliphate. It was at this date that 
Ziad, Ali's Governor of Fars, became reconciled to him, 
and presented himself under a safe-conduct at Damascus, 
bringing all arrears of revenue, and in addition a million 
pieces as a gift. His remarkable capacity secured the 



Caliph's public acknowledgment of his relationship with 
himself, and he was appointed Governor of Basra, where 
he ruled the turbulent Arabs with a rod of iron. Later 
on Kufa was added to his administration, and there he 
introduced a reign of terror for the purpose of crushing 
conspiracies that boded ill for the future of the Omayyad 
dynasty. The Arab chroniclers state that no viceroy 
ever enjoyed such powers as Ziad, who ruled from the 
Euphrates to the Indus and Jaxartes, and maintained a 
court modelled on that of the Great King. 

Moslem Progress in the East, — During the Caliphate 
of Muavia the yoke of the Arabs was fixed more securely 
on the East. Herat, which had rebelled in a.h. 41 (662), 
was stormed, and so was Kabul two years later. Ghazni, 
Balkh, and Kandahar were visited by Moslem armies. 
In A.H. 54 (674) the Oxus was crossed and Bokhara 
captured, and in a.h. 56 (676) Samarcand fell to the 
Moslems, who strengthened their position up to the 
Jaxartes on the north and to the Indus on the south. In 
short, they became successors of Alexander the Great. 

From Basra and Kufa Ziad governed Persia through 
his sons. The province of Khorasan, which at this period 
comprised the Moslem empire east of the Lut as far 
as the confines of India, was divided into four great 
districts, with their centres at Nishapur, Merv, Herat, 
and Balkh respectively. Of these cities only the first- 
named lies within the limits of modern Iran. It was at 
this time, too, that Arab colonies were planted in Khorasan, 
traces of which still survive, although the Mongol inva- 
sions shattered their power. I have, indeed, myself 
frequently come across small bodies of Arab tribesmen, 
and a regiment termed the Arab va Ajam is still recruited 
in the Shahrud district. 

The Power and Prosperity of Muavia, — Muavia cer- 
tainly ranks as one of the great Caliphs. Owing to his 
sagacity, his hold on Damascus was never seriously 
threatened, and he converted it into the magnificent 
capital of the Caliphate. His successful campaigns to 
the confines of India have been referred to, and he was 
on the whole equally successful in the West, attacking 


Constantinople or raiding some part of the Byzantine 
Empire year after year, always acting on the offensive 
and rarely suffering disaster. 

Tezid declared Heir- Apparent^ a.h. 56 (676), and his 
Succession in a.h. 61 (680). — While at the zenith of 
his power and prestige, Muavia decided to designate 
Yezid, his eldest son, as his successor. Syria and Irak 
acquiesced in the innovation, whereas at Mecca and 
Medina the outcry was loud and bitter. But Damascus 
was now the capital, and the protests even of sacred 
Mecca could be disregarded by the Caliph, who forced its 
inhabitants to take the oath of fealty at the point of the 
sword. The feeling that was excited found expression in 
an epigram which Masudi has preserved : 

We*re filled full of wrath, and were we to drain 
The blood of Omayya, our thirst would still pain : 
While wasting your people, ye still without care, 
Ye sons of Omayya, go hunting the hare.^ 

Muavia died in a.h. 61 (680), and thanks to the effective 
arrangements he had made, Yezid, his son by the daughter 
of a Beduin chief, succeeded to the Caliphate as if it had 
been a hereditary throne, although his tenure of it did 
not by any means continue untroubled. He was specially 
addicted to the pleasure of the chase, as the epigram just 
quoted shows, and gave very litde attention to affairs of 
State. But he does not appear to have been an incom- 
petent ruler, and he hardly merits the invective with 
which his name has been loaded on account of the 
tragedy of Kerbela. 

The Rebellion of Ibn Zobayr^ a.h. 61 (680). — As 
Muavia had foretold, AbduUa ibn Zobayr proved a 
dangerous man. Having himself sent Husayn to his 
death on the field of Kerbela, he took advantage of the 
unpopularity this deed brought upon the Caliph to head 
a rising against him. For a time the crafty rebel pre- 
tended to be loyal, and Yezid was naturally loath to take 
extreme measures ; but at last, in a.h. 63 (682), he was 
obliged to send a force to Medina, which, after defeating 

^ Masudi, ii. 50. The translation is quoted from Omayyads and jibbmids by Zaydan. 



the troops of Ibn Zobayr, plundered the city of the 
Prophet for three days. Mecca was next attacked, and 
in the course of a two months' siege the Kaaba was 
burned. At this critical juncture news was received of 
the death of Yezid, and the army in consequence with- 
drew, leaving Ibn Zobayr for the time being securely in 
possession of the Sacred City. 

The Bokhara Campaign, — While the great events of 
which we have taken notice were occurring at the centre 
of the Moslem world, there was expansion, together with 
confusion, disturbance, and internal discord, farther east. 
On his succession to the Caliphate Yezid appointed Salm 
ibn Ziad to Khorasan. He found Bokhara in rebellion, 
its Queen having offered her hand to the Turkish King 
as the price of his assistance. Salm, aided by his general 
Muhallab, whose connexion with Khorasan was intimate 
and distinguished, defeated the combined armies, the 
Queen was forced to sue for peace, and Salm returned in 
triumph to Merv. 

The Campaign of the Northern Beduin against the 
Southern Beduin^ a.h. 46-65 (666-685). — The East, and 
more especially Khorasan, had been convulsed for many 
years by feuds between the Arabs of the North and the 
Arabs of the South which broke out in civil war. The 
fighting had raged for a year without intermission when it 
culminated in a victory gained at Herat by the Modhar, 
or Arabs of the South, who inflicted a loss of 8000 killed 
on the enemy. Other battles were fought and much 
blood was shed, and all progress was necessarily brought 
to a standstill by these dangerous jealousies. 

The Divisions in the Caliphate^ a.h. 61-73 (680-692). 
— The Caliphate after the death of Yezid was filled by 
a weakling boy who died in a few months, and Yezid*s 
kinsman Merwan, who was elected in his place, lived for 
only a year. Abdul Malik, Merwan's son, succeeded him 
and ruled for some years, with Ibn Zobayr holding the 
Sacred Cities, Irak, and the East as a rival Caliph. The 
situation was still further complicated by a certain 
Mukhtar, who gained possession of Kufa as the agent of 
Mohamed, son of the Caliph Ali, known from his mother 


as the Hanifite. Mukhtar was killed by Musab, brother 
of Ibn Zobayr, who in turn was defeated and killed by 
Abdul Malik in a.h. 71 (690). Ibn Zobayr, who 
probably would have been elected Caliph had he shown 
more enterprise after the death of Yezid, was attacked 
for the second time in a.h. 72 (691). It was on this 
occasion that Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the ferocious general and 
administrator who was the incarnation of the spirit of the 
Omayyad dynasty, first played a leading part. He 
showed no respect for the Sacred City, which he besieged, 
and Ibn Zobayr, deserted by many of his followers, met 
a soldier's death in a.h. 73 (692), after thirteen years of 
successful independence, during which he had been a 
constant rival of the Caliphs. The Caliphate of Abdul 
Malik was then acknowledged throughout the Moslem 

The Massacre of the Enemies of Husayriy a.h. 66 
(685). — In A.H. 65 the Kharijites, whose sinister activity 
kept Persia perpetually convulsed, visited the tomb of 
Husayn at Kerbela and bewailed their desertion of his 
cause. They then invaded Syria, but were defeated and 
returned to Kufa. In the following year there were 
tribal fights in Kufa which ended in a massacre of all 
who had opposed Husayn. Persians exult over the just 
retribution which fell upon Shimr, Amr, and other 
citizens, many of whom were put to death with torture ; 
and owing to the vigilance of Mukhtar but few escaped. 
The heads of Amr and his son were sent to the Hanifite, 
who appears to have been merely a tool of a crafty 

The Azrakites. — In a.h. 74 (693) Irak was threatened 
by a branch of the Kharijites, termed Azrakites, and, as 
the Arabs were unwilling to fight in these campaigns, 
Hajjaj was appointed Governor. Arriving suddenly at 
Kufa, he sat in the mosque with his face veiled until 
asked his name, when he delivered the speech which is 
quoted at the head of this chapter. Frightened by such 
ferocious language, the citizens streamed out to the camp 
and the peril was averted ; but time after time insurrec- 
tions of these fanatics broke out, unhappy Kerman 


serving as their headquarters, until, weakened by divisions, 
the bands broke up^ to be eventually crushed by the 
able general Muhallab, who as a reward was appointed 
Governor of Khorasan. 

The Rebellion of Ibn-al-Ashath^ a.h. 8o (699). — During 
the course of the campaigns beyond Sistan an Indian 
monarch named Ratbil had defeated a Moslem force by 
luring it into the defiles of what is now Afghanistan. To 
avenge this humiliation, a powerful army was despatched 
under Ibn-al-Ashath ; but he, conceiving himself unjustly 
treated by Hajjaj, rebelled. Supported by his entire 
army, he was welcomed everywhere, and the detested 
Hajjaj fled from Basra, where the Pretender was received 
as Caliph. Hajjaj, however, collected an army in Syria, 
and Ibn-al-Ashath was defeated and escaped to Kerman. 
Ultimately he took refuge with Ratbil, who to please 
Hajjaj put him to death. 

The Rebellion of Musa ibn Khazim. — The state of 
anarchy which prevailed in Khorasan and the loose nature 
of Arab authority make it almost impossible to give 
within reasonable compass a consecutive and intelligible 
narrative of events. They may be illustrated by the 
career of Musa, son of Khazim. Owing to tribal feuds 
he sought refuge at Samarcand, and he then obtained 
possession of the province of Termez, which he ruled for 
fifteen years. In the end he was attacked by a large 
force and slain. 

Death and Character of Abdul Malik, — The reign of 
Abdul Malik, albeit a stormy one, marked the culminat- 
ing point of the Omayyad dynasty. Successful on the 
whole, he was undoubtedly an able ruler, with a con- 
ciliatory policy, but he owed much to the brilliant abilities 
of Hajjaj. The Arab chroniclers mention that during 
his reign the Caliphate first minted a coinage, and also 
that the accounts of the exchequer were first conducted 
in Arabic instead of Persian, which must have involved 
a serious loss of influence to the subject race. 

The Campaigns in Central Asia ^ a.h. 86-96 (705-714). 
—Under Welid, the son and successor of Abdul Malik, 
the Moslem arms penetrated farther and farther east- 


wards, substituting conquest for what had hitherto been 
little more than raids. Kutayba/ who ably conducted these 
operations in Central Asia, chose Merv for his head- 
quarters, and every year made a successful campaign, 
generally crossing the Oxus and sometimes the Jaxartes. 
Balkh, Tokharistan, and Ferghana were his first objective ; 
then the fall of Baykand, a trading centre in Bokhara, 
secured for him booty of inestimable value. In a.h. 90 
(709) the city of Bokhara itself was taken. A rising 
occupied Kutayba*s energies in the following year, but he 
was soon free to attack Ratbil in Sistan. In a.h. 93 (712) 
he turned his arms towards Khiva, where after gaining a 
success he heard that Samarcand was in the hands of rebels. 
Leading his veterans by forced marches, he began the 
siege of that city, whose king on the arriv^ of battering- 
engines lost heart, and peace was made on the terms that 
a heavy tribute should be paid and a levy of horsemen 
supplied. The conqueror was allowed to enter Samar- 
cand, where he destroyed the fire temples and built a 
mosque, but he broke his plighted word and retained the 
city as a Moslem possession. In the last two years of 
this eventful decade Kutayba reached Kashgar. A curious 
legend of this campaign has been preserved, according to 
which the Arab general swore to take possession of the soil 
of China. The " King " (probably the frontier governor) 
released him from this oath by sending him a load of soil 
to trample on, a bag of Chinese money to symbolize 
tribute, and four royal youths on whom he imprinted 
his seal. The whole story has a delightful touch of reality. 
The Advance to the Indus^ a.h. 89-96 (707-714). — 
During the reign of Welid the Moslem hosts, under 
Mohamed ibn Kasim, the first Arab to make his mark in 
India, pushed into Sind from Makran and captured 
Multan, where the value of the spoil was estimated at 
1 20,000,000 pieces. The death of Welid put an end to 
any farther advance, but the Moslems remained in Sind 
permanently. There, so long as tribute was duly paid, 
they allowed the worship of idols in direct violation of 
the Prophet's order. 

1 The campaigns of Kutayba are detailed with some fulness in The Heart of Asia, 


The Achievements of JVelid^ a.h. 86-96 (705-714). — 
The short reign of Welid was one of essential grandeur, 
marking as it does the zenith of Moslem power. If a 
comparison be desired, it may be said that Abdul Malik 
compares with Kobad and Welid with Noshirwan. His 
victorious armies marched to the frontiers of China and to 
the Indus ; while in the West the conquest of Spain was an 
even more splendid and substantial achievement. Much 
of the credit for these great gains was due to the personality 
of the Caliph, whose authority was supreme and whose 
word was law from the frontiers of China to the Atlantic. 

The Campaigns of Tezid in Gurgan and Tabaristan^ 
A.H. 98 (716). — Yezid, son of Muhallab, was appointed 
Governor of Khorasan to succeed Kutayba, who upon the 
succession of Sulayman to the Caliphate had rebelled and 
been killed. Yezid's arms were directed in the first 
instance against Gurgan,^ the ancient Hyrcania, which 
with neighbouring Tabaristan had maintained its inde- 
pendence, although it lay across the direct route from 
Irak to Central Asia. Yezid captured Dihistan, and drove 
the inhabitants of Gurgan into the Elburz, where they 
were finally forced to submit ; after butchering many 
prisoners and ravaging the country he invaded Tabaristan, 
the modern Mazanderan. In this campaign he at first 
successfully marched through the plain country and occu- 
pied Sari. A battle was fought in which the Moslems 
routed the enemy, but being lured into an ambush they 
suffered such severe losses that Yezid was glad to purchase 
his safe retreat for 300,000 dinars. Returning to Gurgan, 
which had revolted, he besieged its prince for seven months 
in a stronghold situated on a mountain top which was 
accessible by only one route. This was probably Kala 
Maran, to which I have already referred in connexion with 
the Parthian capital. In the end he made prisoners of the 
garrison, and was able to fulfil a dreadful vow similar to 
that of Khalid by grinding wheat into flour for his bread 
with the blood of his victims, thousands of whom also 
were impaled along the roads leading to the city. 

^ For the campaign in Tabaristan, -vide Ibn Isfancliyar's History of Tabarittarty by 
Prof. E, G. Browne (Gibb Memorial). The Arabic form of Gurgan is Jurjan. 


Khorasan under the Caliphate of Omar ILy a.h. 99-101 
(717-720). — Sulayman died after a short reign of less 
than three years, and was succeeded by the pious Omar, 
to whose credit lies the abolition of the curses against Ali, 
which must have given dire and continual offence to 
generations of devout Moslems. Omar improved the 
position of the inhabitants of Khorasan, many of whom, 
though converted to Islam, suffered none the less on that 
account from the exactions of the tax collector. Sending 
for representatives of the oppressed, the Caliph himself 
went into their case, dismissed the Governor, and laid down 
that all Moslems should be placed on terms of perfect 
equality. He enjoined justice towards the Persians who re- 
mained Zoroastrians, forbidding the destruction of their fire 
temples though not permitting the erection of new pyres. 

The Reign of Tezid II, ^ a.h. i 01- 105' (720-724). — 
Omar II. was succeeded by Yezid 11.,^ son of Abdul 
Malik. But the new Caliph had first to crush a rebellion 
raised by his namesake the son of Muhallab, who had 
seized Irak, and so far made good his position that 
governors ruled in his name in Pars, Kerman, and other 
centres in Persia. Maslama, the Caliph's brother, was 
selected to lead the Syrian army, which defeated the rebels, 
Yezid, their chief, being killed in the battle. His brothers, 
who fled by sea to the Kerman province, were put to death 
and their families were sold as slaves. As a reward for 
his great services Maslama was appointed Governor of 
both Irak and Khorasan. To the latter province he sent 
his son-in-law Said, an effeminate man quite out of place 
as Warden of the Marches. In spite of Moslem expedi- 
tions there was a general rising of the hordes in Khojand 
and Ferghana, and the Soghdians, who remained loyal, 
suffered considerably before help could be afforded them. 
When troops arrived on the scene they attacked the 
Soghdians, who had by that time broken away from their 
allegiance, and there was much indecisive fighting and 
raiding. Altogether during the reign of Yezid II. the 
decadence of the Omayyad dynasty becomes more marked. 

1 The examination by this Caliph of the first recorded English traveller to the East 
is related in Chapter LII. 


The Ahhasid Propaganda, — It was about this period 
that Mohamed, great-grandson of Abbas, the uncle of the 
Prophet, began to advance the pretensions of the Hashi- 
mite branch of the Kureish. To conciliate the Shia party, 
it was claimed that the rights of the house of Ali had been 
surrendered and merged in the Abbasid representatives, 
and emissaries from Mohamed, who lived in a retreat in 
the wilds of Palestine, began to visit Khorasan, where 
their Hashimite propaganda found a fruitful soil. The 
pioneers were put to death, but the cause prospered 
nevertheless, and gained many adherents throughout 
Persia and Irak. 

The Rebellion of Zayd^ a.h. 122 (740). — The Abbasid 
party was greatly strengthened by the attempt of Zayd, a 
grandson of Husayn, to raise a rebellion. The Kufans, 
true to their record, covenanted with him but failed him 
when he raised his standard. He died fighting bravely, 
and with him the cause of the Shias was lost for the time 
being, while the opposition to the Omayyad dynasty 
became more united in favour of the house of Abbas. 

The Caliphate of Hisham^ a.h. 105—125 (724—743). — 
During the comparatively long reign of Hisham the 
decline of the Omayyad dynasty continued. I have 
mentioned briefly the only incidents which directly con- 
cern Persia. But the fact should not be overlooked that 
it was during the Caliphate of Hisham that the Moslems 
invaded France. For Europe the issue of the battle won 
by Charles Martel in a.d. 732, exactly a century after the 
death of the Founder of Islam, was of supreme importance. 
As Lord Houghton wrote : 

Think if the arm of Charles Martel 
Had failed upon the Plain of Tours ! 
That fate whose course we know so well, 
That foul subjection, had been ours. 
Where then had been the high renown 
France can from sire to son deliver. 
Where English freedom, rolling down, 
One broadening, one continuous river.^ 

^ Quoted from the Spectator of October 5, 19 12. I have to thank its editor for the 
identification of the quotation. 


Welid IL and Tezid III.^ a.h. 125-126 (743-744). — 
The last Caliphs of the Omayyad dynasty call for little 
mention. Welid, a profligate ruler, was killed by his 
cousin Yezid, who himself died a few months later. The 
whole of the Moslem world was in a state of anarchy, 
during which Ibrahim, the successor of Mohamed, worked 
strenuously to advance the Abbasid cause. 

The Rebellion of Ibn Muavia^ a.h. 126-129 (744-747). 
— During the Caliphate of Merwan II., who succeeded 
Yezid III., there were various insurrections in Syria, 
which were crushed with the vindictive cruelty that was 
now usual. Of greater importance was the rebellion of 
Ibn Muavia, a descendant of Jafar, brother of Ali. Upon 
the accession of Merwan the Pretender was acknowledged 
at Kufa, but, being deserted by its ever fickle inhabitants, 
he retreated to Madain, where thousands* rallied to his 
standard. With this force and the support of the Khari- 
jites, Ibn Muavia established himself at Istakhr, and his 
Governors ruled in Isfahan, and in Rei and Kumis. In 
A.H. 129 (747) the Pretender was defeated by the Syrian 
troops and, like other pretenders, fled to Khorasan. The 
famous Abu Muslim, of whom we shall hear more very 
shortly, was at this time established at Merv, nominally 
in the interests of the Hashimite section of the Kureish, 
but actually as the agent of the house of Abbas. Ibn 
Muavia not unnaturally looked to him for support, but 
was put to death by the Governor of Herat, on Abu 
Muslim's orders. 

The Raising of the Black Standard in Khorasan^ 
A.H. 129 (747). — Everywhere the weakening control of 
the central power allowed the Arabs to waste their 
strength in internal feuds, and alike in Spain in the 
extreme west, in Africa, in Syria, and in Irak the situation 
was most gloomy for the Caliph. In Khorasan too the 
able Governor Nasr who had proved his military capacity 
by defeating and capturing Kursul the Khakan, was 
opposed by the Yemenite faction, and the ceaseless quarrel 
between Modhar and Yemen convulsed Khorasan as 
much as it was convulsing Spain. 

At this juncture Abu Muslim raised the black standard 


of the house of Abbas, which bore the following inscrip- 
tion from the Koran : " Permission to fight is accorded 
to those who take up arms because they have been 
unjustly treated." This remarkable man, destined to 
overthrow the Omayyad dynasty and to set the house of 
Abbas in its stead, was purchased as a slave at Mecca by 
Mohamed, the head of the Abbasid family. Showing 
conspicuous ability, he was employed as a confidential 
agent, and constantly travelled between Southern Palestine 
and his native province Khorasan. It was in consequence 
of his reports that active steps were taken. Intrigues con- 
ducted with consummate skill resulted in the capture of 
both Herat and Merv. Nasr reported that 200,000 men 
had sworn allegiance to Abu Muslim, and concluded his 
appeal for help against the growing movement with the 
following celebrated verses : 

I see amidst the embers the glow of fire, and it 

wants but little to burst into a blaze. 
And if the wise ones of the people quench it not, 

its fuel will be corpses and skulls. 
Verily fire is kindled by two sticks, and verily 

words are the beginning of warfare. 
And I cry in amazement, "Would that I knew 

whether the House of Omayya were awake or asleep ! " 

Merwan attempted to send reinforcements to his Viceroy, 
and he arrested Ibrahim, who henceforth disappears from 
the scene ; but Abul Abbas and Abu Jafar, Ibrahim's 
brothers, escaped to Kufa, where they were protected and 
remained in hiding. 

Meanwhile Kahtaba, the able general of Abu Muslim, 
had twice defeated Nasr, at Nishapur and again at 
Gurgan. Worn out and a fugitive, Nasr fled through 
Rei and died before reaching Hamadan. Kahtaba, follow- 
ing close behind, entered Rei, defeated the Caliph's army, 
which had marched up from Kerman, and took Nahavand. 
He then avoided Ibn Hobaya at Jalola and descended into 
Irak. The Syrian General, however, forestalled him and 
fell back on Kerbela. An encounter followed near that 
city, when Kahtaba defeated the army of the Caliph but 
lost his own life. Under his son, Ibn Kahtaba, Kufa was 


taken, and Abul Abbas, emerging from hiding, was 
after a time proclaimed Caliph by the victorious 

The Battle of the Great Zah^ a.h. 132 (750). — While 
this struggle was going on, another force, detached by 
Kahtaba from Nahavand, defeated the troops of Merwan's 
son Abdulla and occupied Upper Mesopotamia. The 
Caliph, who lived at Harran, at last took the field in 
person, crossed the Tigris, and marched down its left bank 
with an army 120,000 strong. He crossed the Zab by a 
bridge, intending to fight a decisive battle with the 
Abbasid forces commanded by Abdulla, uncle of Abul 
Abbas. To stimulate the avaricious Arabs Merwan told 
them that he had brought treasures with which to reward 
them. This caused a movement towards the camp on 
the part of some of the tribesmen which was mistaken for 
flight. A panic ensued and the entire army fled, thousands 
being drowned in the Great Zab. From the field of 
battle the victors advanced on Mosul and the unfortunate 
Merwan was hunted down and killed. With him perished 
the Omayyad dynasty. 

The Condition of Persia under the Omayyad 'Dynasty. — 
In this chapter I have given as far as possible the history 
of Persia as a province of the Moslem Empire. In a 
period of universal tyranny and oppression, when tyrants 
like Hajjaj represented the Caliph, it is certain that 
the Persian people were worse treated than under the 
first four Caliphs, who invariably attempted to secure 
justice and to repress tyranny and corruption. The in- 
habitants of Khorasan were largely instrumental in the 
overthrow of the Omayyad dynasty. It was among them 
that the Abbasid agents found their most devoted 
followers, and we have the remarkable spectacle of a 
people risking life and property to serve a man of an 
alien race whom they had never seen, and serving him 
with rare fidelity and devotion. It was this spirit in- 
spiring the followers of the Black Standard which enabled 
them to overcome the Arabs of Syria, who were lukewarm 
so far as the Caliph was concerned, and thought merely 
of their personal, or at most their tribal interests. Conse- 

6o HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, xlvih 

quently, in a sense the victory won by the men of 
Khorasan may be regarded as a sign of national awaken- 
ing on the part of the oppressed Persians, who must have 
been conscious that in all that made for civilization they 
were superior to their Arab masters. 

Abu Muslim. 



The ascendancy of the Persians over the Arabs, that is to say of the con- 
quered over the victors, had already for a long while been in course of prepara- 
tion ; it became complete when the Abbasids, who owed |heir elevation to 
the Persians, ascended the throne. These princes made it a rule to be on their 
guard against the Arabs, and to put their trust only in foreigners, Persians, 
especially those of Khorasan, with whom, therefore, they had to make friends. 
— Dozy, Histoire d'Islamisme. 

The End of Moslem Unity, — The Omayyad dynasty 
and the empire of Islam were interchangeable terms, but 
this is not true of the Abbasid dynasty, which was never 
acknowledged in Spain and from the first but inter- 
mittently in Africa. In Persia, as will be seen, inde- 
pendent dynasties arose as the Caliph grew weak, until 
the appalling cataclysm of the Mongol invasion, sweeping 
across Iran, ended the degenerate house of Abbas and 
with it the Caliphate. 

A second fact of special importance, so far as Persia 
is concerned, is that the Abbasids owed their success to 
armies raised in Khorasan, on which they relied to main- 
tain the dynasty against the Arabs. The martial vigour 
of the latter had naturally deteriorated, owing to the 
luxury which their extraordinary successes had induced 
and the system whereby they were maintained, without 
working, at the expense of the Moslem empire, just as in 
later days the Manchus were maintained in China. So 
hostile was the dynasty to the Arabs that Abu Muslim's 
orders from Ibrahim, the brother of Abul Abbas, were to 
" see that there be not one left in Khorasan whose tongue 



is the tongue of the Arabian, but he be slain." Strange 
orders these from a member of the Kureish tribe ! 

The Accession of Abul Ahhas^ a.h. 132 (749). — After 
the victory of Kahtaba in the neighbourhood' of Kufa, 
Abu Salma, an agent of the Hashimite cause in Khorasan, 
took possession of Kufa and governed under the title of 
" Vizier of the house of Mohamed." The two brothers 
of Ibrahim who had been in hiding now emerged. Abul 
Abbas was the younger, but of a noble mother, and 
consequently his claims were held to be greater than 
those of Abu Jafar, whose mother was a slave-girl. It 
might have been expected that the proclamation of Abul 
Abbas as Caliph would immediately follow, but Abu 
Salma continually delayed until his hand was forced by 
members of the Abbasid party who brought Abul Abbas 
to the Great Mosque. There he ascended the pulpit 
and inveighed against the infamous Omayyads, who had 
usurped the rights of the Prophet. He is said to have 
ended his fierce denunciations by exclaiming, " I am the 
Great Avenger and my name is Saffahy ' the Shedder of 
Blood.' " By this title Abul Abbas is known in history, 
although it is not certain that he conferred it upon 

The Massacre of the Omayyads. — The title of the 
Caliph was made good by acts of ferocity directed against 
the many members of the fallen dynasty. Every scion 
of the house was hunted for his life. In Palestine the 
uncle of the Caliph added treachery to cruelty. He 
proclaimed an amnesty and confirmed it by a feast to 
ninety members of the family. When all were seated a 
poet declaimed against the evil deeds of the Omayyad 
house, and at this signal they were murdered to a; man. 
A carpet was drawn over the ninety corpses and the 
banquet was resumed ! One of the family, born under 
a lucky star, escaped the general slaughter, and; after 
wandering as a refugee in Africa was invited to reign 
in Spain, where he founded a new Omayyad dynasty 
which attained considerable splendour. 

The Reign of Abul Abbas and his Death, a.h. 136 
(754)-— The reign of Abul Abbas was stormy throughout, 


and it may have been due to his cruelty that a rebellion 
broke out in Syria and Mesopotamia, where large armies 
still supported the Omayyad cause. Basra, too, defied 
the Khorasan troops of the Hashimite general, and had 
there been a master-mind to give unity to these eflForts 
it might have gone hard with the house of Abbas ; but 
none such was to be found. Ibn Hobayra clung to 
Wasit at a time when his army might have saved the 
Omayyad cause in Syria, and he was induced to capitulate. 
The Khorasan veterans at length captured Basra, and 
although in Khorasan and other oudying provinces risings 
occurred, the Abbasid dynasty was before long firmly 

The treachery and ingratitude of Abul Abbas, were 
displayed in the assassination of Abu Salma, who was 
waylaid when returning from a feast given in^his honour 
by the Caliph. Shortly afterwards Abul Abbas himself 
died of small-pox. The five years of his reign had been 
marked by massacres, treachery, perjury, and ingratitude 
on a scale unprecedented in the annals of Islam. 

Abu J afar ^ Mansur^ a.h. 136-158 (754-775). — Abu 
Jafar, who succeeded to the Caliphate and assumed the 
title of Mansur or Victorious, was faced with a serious 
rebellion headed by his uncle AbduUa, the Conqueror of 
Merwan. Abu Muslim was sent to oppose him, and the 
Pretender in desperation butchered 17,000 Khorasan 
troops whom he knew he could not trust. Abu Muslim 
in the end succeeded, and Abdulla was taken prisoner 
and placed in custody at Basra. 

The Execution of Abu Muslim^ a.h. 137 (754). — Just 
as Abul Abbas had planned the assassination of Abu 
Salma, so the ungrateful Mansur determined to kill the 
too-powerful Abu Muslim. The latter, suspecting 
treachery, asked one of his friends how he thought he 
stood with the Caliph. The friend replied in a parable. 
" A lion had his foot pierced by a thorn, so that it was 
unable to move ; and a simple-minded, well-meaning 
man, seeing its weakness and hearing its moaning, took 
pity on it, approached it, and drew forth the thorn from 
its foot. Thereupon the lion slew the man ; ^ for,' it said, 


' thou art a meddlesome fellow, and perhaps thou may'st 
assist some other lion, and it may drive me from my 
hunting ground.' '* Abu Muslim replied that, if he 
ceased to care for the tender sapling he had planted, 
passers-by would pluck it up. He diereupon returned 
to Court, where, after listening to reproaches from the 
Caliph in the most violent terms, he was cut to pieces. 
Thus perished, at the early age of thirty-five, the man 
to whose genius and devotion the house of Abbas mainly 
owed its success. Retribution may have been due for the 
blood of thousands of opponents slain by his orders, but 
he had served his masters with consistent loyalty and rare 
devotion, and his fate brands Abu Jafar as guilty of the 
blackest ingratitude. 

The Rebellions in Persia^ a.h. 138 (756), and a.h. 
141-143 (758-760). — In A.H. 138 (756) a rebellion 
broke out in Persia, Sindbad, a follower of the old re- 
ligion, having collected a force to avenge his master 
Abu Muslim, who, he stated, upon being threatened by 
Mansur, had pronounced the " Most Great Name " of 
God, and had flown away in the form of a white dove. 
For some three months Sindbad held the country from 
Rei to Nishapur, and the rebellion was not crushed until 
sixty thousand of his followers had been killed. Three 
years later the Governor of Khorasan rebelled, but was 
defeated by Ibn Khuzayma, with whom was associated 
Mehdi, the Caliph's son and eventual successor. It is an 
'indication of the growing importance of Khorasan that 
Mehdi was afterwards appointed its Governor. The 
Sipahbud^ of Tabaristan, with whom Sindbad had taken 
refuge after his defeat, and to whose care the treasure of 
Abu Muslim had been entrusted, also rebelled, with the 
result that Tabaristan was conquered by the Moslems 
and the Sipahbud in despair took poison. 

The RavandiSy a.h. 141 (758). — It was about this time 
that a strange Persian sect which believed in the trans- 
migration of souls and held that the Caliph was 
temporarily inhabited by the Deity, suddenly invaded the 
palace of Mansur, crying out, " It is the house of our 

1 nJe Chapter XLIII. 






I— t 



Lord, he that giveth us food to eat and water to drink." 
The Caliph, relying on his own authority to quell the 
tumult, imprisoned their leaders, whereupon they stormed 
the prison and nearly killed him. These fanatics, who 
were called Ravandis from the town of Ravand near 
Isfahan, continued to exist until the beginning of the 
tenth century. They were, curiously enough, the cause 
of the institution of a " sentry horse," which thence- 
forward was always kept ready saddled at Court for an 

The Rebellion of the Descendants of Hasan^ a.h. 144 
(761). — A much more serious danger than the rebellions 
in Persia threatened Mansur when Medina and Basra 
rose to support the claims of the house of Ali. The 
rebellious cities were dealt with one after the other, and 
at Medina the Pretender was deserted and fell fighting. 
His brother Ibrahim took possession of Basra and then 
of Kufa, but he, too, fell in battle after almost winning the 
day, and his army broke up and dispersed. 

The Foundation of Baghdad^ a.h. 145 (762). — Mansur 
was the founder of Baghdad, which under his grandson 
Haroun-al-Rashid was destined to enshrine the imperish- 
able memories of the romantic East as recorded in the glow- 
ing pages of the Arabian Nights, In forming the new city 
he had the statesmanlike design of removing the army 
from the neighbourhood of Kufa and Basra, which were 
hotbeds of intrigue ; and by reason of its position a few 
miles above the ancient Madain, and the permanent 
establishment of the Court within its walls, it soon 
became the capital of the Empire. Cantonments were 
built on the eastern bank of the river, with three separate 
camps, for the Khorasan levies on which Mansur depended 
and for the Yemen and Modhar tribes. 

The Rising at Herat^ a.h. 150 (767). — The latter years 
of the reign of Mansur were comparatively peaceful. 
There was a rising at Herat under Ustad or " Master 
Craftsman" Sis, who declared himself a prophet, and 
occupied Khorasan and Sistan until Ibn Khuzayma 
defeated him with heavy slaughter. Perhaps the chief 
importance of the event lies in the fact that the rebel's 



daughter Khayzran was taken by Mehdi into his harem, 
and became the mother of Hadi and of Haroun. 

Persian Influence under Mansur. — During the long 
reign of Mansur Persian influence became more and 
more marked. The Court dress was Persian, and 
literature, medicine, and astronomy began to be studied 
under the patronage of the Caliph, who was specially 
interested in astrology. Moreover, the Caliphate, which 
possessed no good traditions of administration on which 
to rely, adopted the same system as that by which the 
Sasanian monarchs had ruled. Chief of the great officers 
was the Vizier. The first holder of that title, as has been 
already mentioned, was Abu Salma. He was assassinated 
and his immediate successor was poisoned. The office 
then passed to the famous Barmecides or descendants of 
Barmak, a title borne by the high priest of the great fire- 
temple of Balkh, who was their ancestor. The Barmecides 
ruled for more than fifty years (a.d. 752-804), and by 
their splendid abilities and generous patronage of learning 
and science created the golden period of the Abbasid 

Mehdi^ a.h. 158-169 (775-785). — Mansur during 
his lifetime had appointed Mehdi his successor, and when 
he died the reaction from his harsh and gloomy rule 
found expression in praises of Mehdi, who is described 
as " the brilliant moon in beauty ; the spring-time from 
his perfumes and suavity ; the lion by his courage ; and 
the sea, with its resounding waves, is the emblem of his 
munificence and generosity." Nor were these praises 
wholly unmerited ; for the new Caliph inaugurated his 
reign by deeds of mercy, and steadily developed the 
Empire, improving communications, fortifying important 
centres, founding towns and villages, and encouraging 
poetry, literature, and music. On the other hand, there 
must be laid to his charge instances of cruelty to his 
ministers and generals, and the fact that he organized a 
persecution of the Manichaeans, even establishing a special 
department to deal with these heretics. 

The Veiled Prophet of Khorasan^ a.h. 158-161 (774- 
777)- — To the beginning of Mehdi's reign belong the 


incidents made familiar to English readers in Moore's 
well-known poem. Its hero, Mokanna, known as Hakim 
Burkaiy or " the Physician with the face-veil/* was born 
at Karez, which is now a squalid village on the road 
between Meshed and Herat. He taught the immanence 
of the Deity in Adam, in Abu Muslim, whose name was 
still intensely revered, and in himself.^ For four years 
he held Central Asia, until, being besieged and seeing no 
hope, he cast himself into a tank of vitriol. 

Hadi^ A.H. 169-170 (785-786). — Mehdi's favourite 
son was Haroun, who had gained much glory in a campaign 
to the Bosphorus in a.h. 156, and he wished to pass over 
his elder son Musa, better known as Hadi ; but the 
latter refused to renounce his rights, and on the sudden 
death of Mansur he was proclaimed Caliph without 
opposition. His reign, however, was short and un- 
important, and when he died, after ruling for about a 
year, he was succeeded by his brother, who has achieved 
enduring fame as Haroun-al-Rashid, or " Aaron the 
Upright." Under him the golden age of Islam was 
ushered in. 

^ Browne points out the essential identity of all these sects and gives details in vol. i. 
chap. ix. of his work. 

Mamun and the Imam Riza. 



It was a dynasty abounding In good qualities, richly endowed with generous 
attributes, wherein the wares of Science found a ready sale, the merchandise 
of Culture was in great demand, the observances of Religion were respected, 
charitable bequests flowed freely . . and the frontiers were bravely kept. — 
Al-Fakhri, on the Abbasid Dynasty. 


The Splendour of Haroun-al-Rashid^ a.h, 

Adown the Tigris I vv^as borne, 
By Bagdat's shrines of fretted gold, 
High-walled gardens green and old ; 
True Mussulman was I and sworn, 
For it was in the golden prime 
Of good Haroun Alraschid. 

These lines from Tennyson indicate both the 
magnificence of the golden age of Islam and its close 
association with Haroun, the Solomon of the Abbasid 
dynasty. Bold and of active habit, the great Caliph took 
part in the campaigns waged against the Byzantine 
Empire, and during his reign Moslem fleets fought 
successfully in the Mediterranean. Everywhere Islam 
was in the ascendant. 

It is of much interest to note that Charlemagne 
despatched an embassy to Haroun, composed of two 
Christians and a Jew, the latter presumably the interpreter, 
who sought for easier access to the Holy Sepulchre and 
wished to foster trade with the Caliphate. The return 
gifts from Haroun included an elephant, the first to be 



seen in Western Europe for many centuries, and upon 
the instructions of the Caliph the Patriarch of Jerusalem 
sent the keys of the Holy Sepulchre to Charlemagne. 
Haroun, at the request of the Frank ambassadors, not 
only protected Western pilgrims who visited the Holy 
Land, but even built a hospice for their entertainment, a 
convincing proof of his broad outlook. From Chinese 
sources we learn that an embassy was also sent by Haroun 
to the Emperor of China. But these embassies were 
mere incidents unrecorded by the Arab chroniclers, who 
love to dilate on the splendour of the Caliph's Court and 
the number of philosophers, doctors of law, poets, and 
other learned men who assembled there and inaugurated a 
period which reached its zenith under Mamun. It was 
the lavish generosity of Haroun, who rewarded a poet for 
a sonnet by a gift of 5000 pieces of gold, ten •Greek slave 
girls, a horse, and a robe of honour, that drew men of 
letters to his Court. The main credit for this movement 
is due to him, though, to some extent, he was following 
in the footsteps of his father. 

The Hasanite Prince of Daylam^ a.h. 176 (792). — 
Nevertheless there was another side to Haroun's 
character. The case of Yahya, a descendant of the Imam 
Hasan, shows that, with all his great qualities, he was 
not free from the treachery of his family. Yahya had 
gained possession of Daylam, a district to the west of 
Resht now termed ,Talish, and grew so powerful and 
maintained so brilliant a court that the jealousy of the 
Caliph was excited. Fazl, the Barmecide Governor of 
Persia, was sent to attack him with a large army, but 
terms were made and a document was drawn up and 
sealed, according to which Yahya was to visit Baghdad 
and there receive honourable treatment. The Caliph, 
upon the arrival of the Prince, treated him with honour 
and made him costly presents, but shortly afterwards 
discovered a flaw in the document and threw him into 

The Downfall of the Barmecides. — The fall of the 
Barmecides is one of the best known events in Oriental 
history, so powerful and distinguished were the family, 


and above all so generous. Yahya, son of Khalid, had 
handed over his offices to his two sons, Fazl and Jafar, 
who between them ruled the Empire. Jafar was the 
special friend and boon companion of Haroun, who, being 
deeply attached to his sister Abbasa, wished for her 
presence also when the two were together. But by 
Moslem custom this was out of the question, and in order 
to overcome the difficulty Abbasa was married to Jafar,^ 
on the express understanding, however, that the marriage 
was to be only nominal. But, as might have been 
expected, this artificial arrangement failed, and Abbasa, 
who was deeply enamoured of her husband, visited him 
in the disguise of a slave and bore him a child. Haroun 
was furious at what he probably regarded as high treason, 
and put Jafar to death ; Yahya and Fazl were imprisoned, 
and both died before their ungrateful master. No great 
family has ever excited more sympathy in its misfortunes, 
and the tragedy made a deep impression, which has been 
preserved for us in the lament of poets and annalists of 
the time. 

The Death of Haroun-al-Rashid^ a.h. 193 (809). — 
In A.H. 193 (809) the Caliph marched in person to crush 
a rebellion which, breaking out in Samarcand under the 
leadership of a certain Rafi, had spread far and wide. 
Haroun, although but forty-three years old, was prematurely 
worn out, and grew worse as he moved slowly eastwards. 
He informed his physician of his disease, but added : 
" Have a care that thou keep it secret ; for my sons 
are watching the hour of my decease, as thou mayest see 
by the shuffling steed they will now mount me on, adding 
thus to mine infirmity.'* There is pathos in these words, 
but sympathy is checked by the knowledge that Haroun's 
last act was to have the brother of the rebel chief slain in 
his presence. Shortly afterwards the great Caliph passed 
away. He was buried where he died, in a garden, and a 
few years later the Imam Riza was laid to rest under the 

A curious instance of a nominal marriage came under my notice at Kerman. 
An old lady of seventy who managed her own affairs was much inconvenienced by the 
fact that she had to remain veiled ' in front of her steward. To obviate this, she 
married his infant son, and as by this act she became the steward's daughter-in-law 
she could unveil before him. Truly a manage dt coti'uenance ! 


same dome, and round the tombs has sprung up the city 
of Meshed. As I write these lines, I am sitting in the 
British Consulate-General, little more than one thousand 
yards from Haroun-al-Rashid*s grave. 

Amin and Mamun^A.H. 193-198 (808-813). — Haroun, 
like Cyrus the Great, made the fatal mistake of dividing 
the Empire. Amin, the son of Zobayda, was nominated 
heir-apparent during his father's lifetime, and AbduUa, 
surnamed Mamun, or " The Trusted,'' son of a Persian 
wife, was declared to be the next successor and was given 
the government of the Caliphate east of Hamadan, just as 
Bardiya, the brother of Cambyses, was appointed ruler of 
the Eastern provinces of the Empire of the Achaemenians. 
In anticipation of the death of Haroun, the heir-apparent 
had despatched an agent with the army to Khorasan. On 
the demise of the Caliph the agent produced two letters 
sealed by Amin. By the terms of the first, Mamun was 
instructed to have the oath of allegiance sworn to both 
brothers (Amin and Mamun), but by the terms of the 
second the army, which had been bequeathed to Mamun, 
was ordered to return to Baghdad ; this order was 
promptly executed as the families of the soldiers were 
in the power of Amin. 

Mamun proclaimed Caliph of the East^ a.h. 196 (811). — 
The brothers consequently started on bad terms, and 
Mamun, under the guidance of Fazl ibn Sahl, a recent 
Persian convert to Islam, strengthened his position in 
Khorasan, where his Persian blood gave rise to the saying, 
" Son of our Sister, he is one of ourselves and an Abbasid 
to boot." His able general, Harthama, captured Samarcand, 
Rafi submitted, and Mamun felt strong enough to declare 
himself Caliph of the East. Amin, on the other hand, 
was a weak voluptuary who lavished the revenues of the 
Caliphate on unworthy pleasures. But he was popular in 
Baghdad, where he spent huge sums of money, and where 
Mamun was disliked for his Persian proclivities. 

The Campaigns of Tahir the Ambidextrous and the 
Death of Amin. — Under a court ruled by eunuchs and 
mistresses the army degenerated, and Amin's attempts to 
attack his brother were uniformly unsuccessful. A force 


which he at length despatched to invade Persia was allowed 
to approach Rei without opposition, but there it was 
defeated by a smaller body under Tahir " the Ambi- 
dextrous," who slew Amin's general, Ali, with his left 
hand. This Tahir, a Persian by race, was the descendant 
of a slave who, upon securing his freedom, became a client 
of the Khuzai clan. He founded the Tahiri dynasty, 
which was to play a great part in Khorasan, and the 
present Amirs of Kain claim descent from him.^ 

After his victory Tahir assumed the offensive, and 
with the support of Harthama advanced on the capital 
by way of Ahwaz, defeating army after army on the way. 
Amin, distracted first by a rebellion in Syria and then by 
a conspiracy which was for a time successful, was in no 
position to withstand him. Receiving the allegiance of 
Arabia for his master, Tahir captured Wasit, and Baghdad 
alone remained loyal to the Caliph of the West. After a 
siege which lasted for a whole year the city was taken by 
storm. Amin, who had taken refuge in the citadel, then 
surrendered, and was put to death by the Khorasan 

Rebellions in the Western Half of the Caliphate^ a.h. 198- 
201 (813-816). — But the struggle between the Persian 
and the Arabian halves of the Caliphate was not ended by 
the death of Amin. By an act of folly Tahir after his 
victories was removed from the supreme command in 
favour of Hasan, brother of Fazl, the Persian Vizier, 
and although he was appointed Governor of Syria and 
Mesopotamia instead, he was naturally disinclined to take 
active steps, and remained at Ricca a passive spectator of 

Mamun apparently determined to make Merv'^ his 
capital and did not appear at Baghdad. In consequence, 
a rising was fomented at Kufa in favour of the House of 
Ali, and other rebellions broke out in Asia Minor and 
Arabia. Harthama, faithful to Mamun, travelled to 

^ Ten Thousand Miles, etc., p. 399. 

2 According to Yakut, the following saying is attributed to Mamun : "There are 
three things at Merv which the poor enjoy as well as the rich, to wit, its delicious 
melons, its water, which is always fresh owing to the abundance of the snows, and its 
downy cotton." 


1—1 -Tl 






Merv to warn him of the dangerous position of affairs, 
but owing to the influence of the Vizier he was not 
allowed even to speak, but was hurried off to prison, 
where he died. 

The Proclamation of Alt Riza as Heir- Apparent^ a.h. 
201 (817). — To meet the crisis the Caliph took an extra- 
ordinary step. In the hope of putting an end to the 
insurrection, he appointed as his heir-apparent Ali Riza, 
the head of the House of Ali, although he was twenty- 
two years older than himself He promulgated an edict 
directing that allegiance was to be sworn to the Imam 
Riza, as he is generally termed, and in order to mark the 
new departure he ordained that the green of the Shia 
was to be substituted for the black of the House of 
Abbas. The Shias were enraptured,^ but at Baghdad the 
people rose in fury to depose Mamun, and his uncle 
Ibrahim received homage as Caliph. When news of this 
serious occurrence reached Merv, Ali Riza had the nobility 
to warn the Caliph that his policy would break up the 
Empire. Mamun, realizing the truth at last, gave orders 
to march on Baghdad, and Fazl was assassinated in his 
bath at Sarakhs, probably by order of his master. 

His Sudden Death^ a.h. 203 (818). — At this time the 
Caliph gave one of his own daughters to Ali Riza and 
a second to Ali Riza's son, while as a further mark of 
favour he conferred upon one of his brothers the high 
honour of presiding at the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. 
But the catalogue of his distinctions came to an abrupt 
close. The Imam Riza died suddenly from a surfeit 
of grapes and was buried under the same dome as 
Haroun-al-Rashid. Rumour, accepted as truth by the 
Shias, represented that the grapes were poisoned, and it 
cannot be denied that the heir-apparent's disappearance 
was extremely opportune. Nevertheless, many eminent 
Orientalists, Beveridge among the number, believe that 
he died a natural death. Be this as it may, Shia pilgrims 
at the present day, when moving in procession round the 
tomb of Ali Riza, pause to cry out " Curses on Haroun 

1 In The Glory of the Shia World, p. 237, 1 have described the whole event from the 
shia point of view. 


and on Mamun," and thus the two most eminent and 
most Persophile Caliphs of the Abbasid dynasty are 
annually execrated by thousands who would otherwise 
never have heard of their existence. 

Tahir, Viceroy of the East^ a.h. 204-207 (819-822). 
— The insurrection of Ibrahim speedily collapsed, and 
Mamun showed mercy and an entire absence of vindic- 
tiveness towards the rebels. Tahir was appointed Viceroy 
of the East ; but he showed signs of disloyalty and was 
thereupon poisoned, probably by an agent of the Caliph. 
But the influence he had acquired was so great that his 
son Talha was allowed to succeed him ; and by this 
appointment Khorasan achieved the status of a semi- 
independent kingdom. 

The Later Tears of Mamun and his Death^ a.h. 218 
(833). — After his power had been established at Baghdad 
the position and prestige of Mamun rivalled that of his 
father. At the same time there was little peace within 
the Empire. An insurrection in Egypt took twelve years 
to crush, and for twenty years a brigand named Babek, 
who professed transmigration and other mystic doctrines, 
terrorized the northern provinces, holding his own in 
Azerbaijan, and defeating army after army sent against 

Mamun was of the same active habit as his father, 
and the close of his reign found him taking the field in 
person against the Greeks near Tarsus, where, like 
Alexander the Great, he caught a chill from the cold 
mountain water. Less fortunate than the great Greek, 
however, he died from the eflFects of his imprudence. 

The ArtSy Science ^ and Literature under Mamun. — A 
mere recital of the chief events of Mamun's reign does 
not convey the impression of exceptional brilliance or 
conspicuous success. Yet all writers agree that for 
Islam this was the golden age of intellectual activity. 
The arts, literature, science, the practice of medicine 
were now seriously studied, and pursued with such 
thoroughness that it was through the vehicle of Arabic 
that benighted Europe became again aware of the glorious 
heritage of Greek science and philosophy of which it had 


lost sight. All men of learning, whether Moslems, Jews, 
Christians, or Pseudo-Sabaeans,^ were welcomed by the 
munificent Caliph, and search was diligently made for 
the works of the Greek historians, philosophers, and men 
of science in order that they might be translated into 

It is very interesting to observe how among Moslems 
the various sciences sprang up in connexion, more or 
less directly, with the study of the Koran. In the first 
place, the conversion of thousands of Persians and other 
conquered peoples created an urgent need for grammars 
and dictionaries. Then came the study of history, not 
only of the Arabs themselves but also of the Persians 
and Greeks, in order to explain the allusions to other 
peoples that were met with in the Koran and in old 
poems, which were collected and critically examined for 
the elucidation of rare or archaic words. But still these 
studies did not satisfy, and the search for knowledge 
was continually pushed through new and more and 
more divergent channels. Thirdly, an acquaintance with 
geography became indispensable, not only for the study 
of the Koran but also for the very practical purpose of 
organizing the rapidly expanding Empire. 

Moslem Exploration and Geography? — The story of 
Moslem exploration, although mainly commercial, is of 
great interest, especially that carried on by sea outside 
the limits of the Empire. It was but a continuation of 
the old maritime activity of the Arabs and Persians, in 
proof of which we learn that Islam was preached at Canton, 
among foreigners consisting mainly of Persians and Arabs, 
between a.d. 618 and 626. In other words, the new 
religion had reached China before the Hijra^ which fact 
points to considerable intercourse between Arabia and 
China. The earliest Arab records of the trade with 

^ Vide Browne's interesting account of the Pseudo-Sabaeans of Harran in vol. i. 
p. 302 of his op. cif. J also the account given of the Nestorians in Chapter XXXVIII. 
of this work. 

^ For this section I have consulted The Dawn of Modern Geography^ by Doctor 
Raymond Beazley ; Lands of the Eastern Caliphate^ by Guy le Strange j and the work 
of Chau Ju-Kua termed Chu-fan-chi^ or " Description of Barbarous Peoples," translated 
and edited by F. Hirth and W. W. Rockhill. The two former books are valuable 
standard works, and the latter I have also found most useful. 


China date from the ninth century. The voyages of a 
merchant called Sulayman and of Ibn Wahab of Basra 
were undertaken in the first and second half of this 
century respectively, and from the account of them given 
in the Salsalat-al-Tawarikh^ or " Chain of Chronicles/' by 
Sayyid Hasan, of Siraf in the Persian Gulf, we learn that 
the voyages started from this port. The route taken was 
by Maskat, Kulam and the Nicobar Islands, to Kalah 
in the Malay Peninsula, from which it was about a 
month's sail to Canton. So important was the foreign 
colony, according to Sulayman, that a Moslem was ap- 
pointed at Canton by the Chinese to maintain order 
among his co-religionists. 

Moslem travellers also traversed the Indian Ocean 
and probably reached Madagascar to the south, while to 
the north the steppes of Russia were penetrated by the 
same merchant-explorers. The voyages preserved to us 
in the " Adventures of Sindbad the Sailor," in the guise of 
charming stories abounding with marvels, give us a 
delightful picture of the world as it was known to the 
Moslem mariner and merchant, and are worthy of study 
from that point of view alone. 

Among the famous Moslems may be reckoned the 
three great geographers, Istakhri, an inhabitant of Istakhr, 
Ibn Haukal, and Mukaddasi. These scientific authorities 
succeeded Ibn Khurdadbih,^ the Postmaster-General of the 
Caliphate, who in the preceding century drew up what 
may best be described as a " Route Book," in which he 
tabulated the distances and other information concerning 
the various routes leading from Baghdad. The systematic 
geographers of the tenth century describe fully each 
province of the Caliphate on an ordered system, giving 
also the main^trunk routes incidentally in connexion with 
their descriptions. The work of Ibn Haukal is but a new 
edition of the Persian geographer, with certain modifica- 
tions. Istakhri treats of his native province of Pars in 
considerable detail, whereas Ibn Haukal treats all the 
provinces in the same proportion. 

Mukaddasi, their contemporary, "wrote his geography 

^ Dawn of Modern Geography, vol. i. p. 425 fF. 


entirely on independent lines and chiefly from his personal 
observation of the divers provinces. His work is 
probably the greatest, it is certainly the most original, 
of all those which the Arab geographers composed." ^ 
It is not possible in the space at my disposal to give 
details of the trade routes which connected the Caliphate 
with every quarter of Europe and Asia, but I cannot 
omit a reference to Rei, on the great trunk route from 
west to east, where the Slav merchants who had de- 
scended the Volga from the north met the traders from 
the Levant. Elsewhere I have spoken of Persia as the 
" Highway of the Nations,'' and this fact by itself would 
go far to justify the description. 

We now come to the science of geography. Mamun 
" created the first true school of geographical science 
which had been seen since the days of the Anionines. . . . 
An observatory was founded at Baghdad where attempts 
were made to determine the obliquity of the ecliptic. 
Once again Mamun caused a simultaneous measurement 
to be taken, in Syria and in Mesopotamia, of a space of 
two degrees of the terrestrial meridian." ^ 

It would be weU if Europeans who are sometimes 
apt in ignorance to depreciate the East would contrast 
the state of learning, of science, of literature, and of the 
arts among Moslems in this century with the deep 
darkness which then covered Europe. It is not too 
much to say that in all these departments of intellectual 
activity the East was incomparably superior to the then 
benighted West, and this continued true during a period 
of some five hundred years ; for not until the twelfth 
century did Christendom cease to depend on the East for 
its light. Ex Oriente lux : no aphorism ever crystallized 
a profounder truth. 

The Mutazila Sect, — It would be improper in any 
account of the golden age of Islam, however brief, to 
pass over without at least some mention the special 
doctrine which won the adherence of the Caliph and his 
Court.^ The Mutazila, or " Seceders," represented the 

* Lands of the Eastern Caliphatey p. 13. 

^ Dawn of Geography, vol. i. p. 409. 

* This brief reference is founded on chap. viii. of Browne's great work. 


protest of human understanding against the tyranny of 
the orthodox teaching, and their tenets were in effect a 
cry for freedom of action. They opposed the orthodox 
doctrine of predestination, which represented the Deity 
as punishing man for sins which he had been preordained 
to commit. They equally opposed the dogma which 
made the Koran coeternal and coexistent with God. 
The Caliphs Mamun, Motasim, and Wathik embraced 
the views of this seceding sect ; but instead of allowing 
freedom to the orthodox Moslems, they treated them 
with fanatical intolerance, until persecution brought about 
the inevitable reaction, and the political power of the 
sect, which under these three Caliphs had been supreme, 
ceased shortly after the accession of Mutawakkil, the 
tenth in succession of the House of Abbas. 

Motasim^ a.h. 218-227 (833-842). — Mamun before 
his death issued a rescript by the terms of which his 
brother Abu Ishak succeeded to the Caliphate under the 
title of Motasim. His reign resembled that of his 
brother, freedom of discussion being allowed except as 
regards the dogmas of the Mutazila sect, dissent from 
which involved the penalty of death. 

The Mamelukes and the Founding of Samarra. — At the 
beginning of the reign of Haroun a Turkish general was 
appointed to supreme military command of the army 
operating in the West. This was forty-eight years before 
the accession of Motasim, and during that period 
thousands of Mamelukes or "owned'* slaves had been 
imported every year from Central Asia to fill the ranks 
of the army and to supply the royal body-guard. Many 
of these men won the Caliph's favour, and gradually they 
displaced the Arabs, who returned to their deserts. The 
evils of this system were apparent from the first, but 
the more the Arabs resented the Caliph's foreign body- 
guard, the more Motasim leaned on the Turks, until 
in course of time they usurped all power and authority ; 
ultimately they founded the Mameluke dynasty of 

The legend runs that the Caliph when riding one day 
in Baghdad was accosted by an old Arab Shaykh, who 


complained in homely but forcible language that there 
was no escape from the insolence and rapine of the 
Turks. This so upset Motasim that he never again 
rode abroad in Baghdad, but founded a new city at 
Samarra, some sixty miles above the capital. 

The Revolt of the Jatt or Gypsies. — Under the orders 
of Walid L, at the beginning of the eighth century of 
our era, a large number of Jatt, termed Zott by the Arabs, 
had been transported with their buffaloes from the lower 
Indus to the marches of the Tigris.^ As soon as they 
were firmly established there they began to rob and to 
kill. By closing the Basra-Baghdad road they raised the 
cost of food in the capital, and compelled successive 
Caliphs to send armies to subdue them. Their insolence 
is expressed in the following poem, preserved in the pages 
of Tabari : 

O inhabitants of Baghdad die ! May your dismay last long ! . . . 
It is we who have defeated you, after having forced you 

to fight us in the open country. 
It is we who have driven you in front of us 

like a flock of weaklings, 

Mamun's generals were unsuccessful in dealing with 
the elusive scourge, and Motasim*s first care was to 
send Ojayf, a trusted Arab general, to subdue this alien 
people. Ultimately, in a.h. 220 (834), Ojayf succeeded 
in his task by cutting their communications. The Zott 
surrendered, and after being exhibited in boats to the 
delighted citizens of Baghdad, wearing their national garb 
and playing their musical instruments, were exiled to 
Khanikin on the Turkish frontier — now a stage on the 
Teheran road — and to the frontiers of Syria, whither 
they proceeded, taking with them their buffaloes. These 
useful animals they can claim to have introduced into the 
Near East and into Europe. 

The Capture of Babek^ a.h. 222 (837). — Motasim's 
most successful general was Afshin, who, after two years 

^ I would refer to the deeply interesting Memoirt sur les migrations des Tsiganes a 
travers VAsie by Professor de Goeje. Some years ago, I collected vocabularies of the 
Gypsy dialect in both the Kerman and the Khorasan provinces j vide Journal Anthro- 
pological Institute, vol. xxxii., 1902, p. 339) ^"^^ vol. xxxvi., July-December, 1906. 


of hard fighting in the neighbourhood of Ardebil, destroyed 
the power of Babek. This man had been a scourge of the 
Caliphate for twenty years, in the course of which he had 
defeated six armies and occasioned the slaughter of a 
quarter of million men and taken thousands of men and 
women prisoners. After his final defeat by Afshin, Babek 
fled, but was handed over to the Caliph by an Armenian 
prince with whom he had taken sanctuary, and was put 
to a cruel death. 

The account of his execution and that of his brother 
practically terminates Tabari's valuable history. The 
historian himself was born two years after this incident, 
but he only briefly summarizes the events of his own 


The Campaign against the Greeks^ a.h. 223 (838). — 
Like Mamun, Motasim was a man of energy and 
active habit, and when he heard that the Greeks were 
ravaging Syria he asked which was their strongest fortress. 
Being told Amorium, he advanced on it with a powerful 
army. Theophilus, the Greek Emperor, was defeated in 
a pitched battle, and, as his army was not able to face the 
Moslems, he was doomed to inaction while Amorium was 
besieged. After a successful resistance for nearly two 
months, a weak point in the fortifications was pointed 
out by a renegade and the fortress was destroyed, its 
garrison being treated with much cruelty. 

The Later Tears of Motasim' s Reign. — The later years 
of Motasim were disturbed by a conspiracy headed by 
Ojayf, who viewed with jealousy the increase in power 
of the Turks. The insurrection was put down with 
barbarous cruelty, and shortly afterwards Afshin fell from 
favour and was put to death. Although arrested for 
treachery and embezzlement, the religious fanaticism of 
Motasim caused him to be tried and condemned for 
holding Zoroastrian doctrines and for secret hostility to 

Wathik^ A.H. 227-232 (842-847). — Wathik, who suc- 
ceeded his father, Motasim, in a.h. 227 (842), was the 
son of a Greek slave-girl. He marked his accession by 
" squeezing " his ministers, some of whom were beaten 


" to encourage the others." Disturbances broke out in 
Persia, where the Kurds rebelled, and in Palestine and 
Syria there were dangerous risings, which, however, were 
put down, mainly by Turkish generals. A conspiracy 
caused by the intolerance of the Caliph failed, and Wathik 
might have reigned for many years and advanced the ex- 
ploration of the countries to the North, in which he was 
deeply interested.-^ But his constitution had been ruined 
by dissipation. He suffered from incessant thirst, and the 
curious remedy was prescribed of exposure in an oven. 
The oven was overheated, possibly by design, and Wathik 
perished. With his short, inglorious reign the golden 
period of Islam came to an end. 

1 Daivn of Modern Geography^ vol. i. p. 414. 





If I live, the sword shall dcciMc l)elwcen ua : if I co/ujucr, I will do as I 
please ; if thou art virtoriouB, bread and onions are my fare ; and neither thou 
nor fortune can triumph ov< r a man accustomed to 'uicli (h'el, — 'I he McMagc 
of Yakue bin Lals to the Cami»h MoiAMiu. 

The Orthodox Reaction under Mutawakkil^ a.h. 232-247 
(847-861). — The reign of Mutawakkil is chiefly important 
as marking the period of orthodox reaction. The 
Mutazilite doctrines were abjured and their professors 
in turn underwent persecution of the most cruel and 
vindictive nature. J^qually strong was the hatred which 
the new Caliph displayed against the House of Ali ; he 
even encouraged his buffoon to dress up as "The Lion of 
Allah," while "Behold the pot-bellied bald one, the 
Caliph of Islam ! " was sung in derision, 'i'he tomb of 
Husayn was destroyed and the site ploughed up. More- 
over, Mutawakkil was fanatically opposed to Jews and 
Christians, against whom obsolete laws were revived. 
They were bound to paint the figure of Satan on the door- 
posts of their houses, were subject to special taxes, were 
obliged to wear a distinctive dull yellow dress,' and were 
debarred from holding any Government appointment. 
Indeed, their very children were forbidden to learn Arabic. 

The Palace of Samarra and the Cypress of Kishmar, — 
The Caliph himself was a dissolute and extravagant 
voluptuary, and in the neighbourhood of Samarra he 

' The Zoro;i.',f.ri;jn» of YczcJ and Kcrman -dm still obliged to wear th'«<: " honcy- 
colourcd gown»." 



built a new palace which cost untold sums of money. 
Connected with it is the legend of Kishmar, already 
mentioned in Chapter IX. as the meeting-place of 
Zoroaster and King Gustasp. It is stated that in order 
to commemorate this event the Prophet of Iran planted 
a cypress, which grew to a prodigious size and was 
regarded as sacred by the Zoroastrians. The fanatical 
Caliph ordered the tree, which was believed by that time 
to be 1450 years old, to be felled, and, although large 
sums were offered to save it, it was cut down and trans- 
ported in sections to Samarra ; but according to the 
legend Mutawakkil was slain by his son on the day these 
reached the palace. The story has some value as indicat- 
ing the hold that Zoroastrianism still retained in the 
province then known as Kuhistan. Incidentally, too, it 
affords some help towards fixing the date of *the meeting 
between Zoroaster and Gustasp. 

The Tahiri 'Dynasty^ a.h. 205-259 (820-872). — 
Mention has already been made of Tahir, the famous 
• general of Mamun who governed Khorasan. Under his 
sons Nishapur succeeded Merv as the capital of what was 
a semi -independent dynasty holding sway in Khorasan 
for over half a century. The princes of this family were 
unambitious and made no attempt to fish in troubled 
waters, and the dynasty collapsed with little resistance 
when attacked by the Saffarids in a.h. 259 (872). In 
1909 I came across a small section of the Tahiri tribe 
in the district of Turshiz to the south of Nishapur ; I was 
also informed that irrigation pipes are occasionally found 
stamped with the name of this dynasty.^ 

A Period of Anarchy^ a.h. 247-256 (861-870). — 
Mutawakkil having alienated his eldest son, Muntassir, by 
grossly abusing him when under the influence of drink, a 
conspiracy of Turkish officers was formed in the interest 
of the heir-apparent, and the Caliph was murdered in his 
sleep. Muntassir succeeded, but died within a year, and 
a period of anarchy ensued, during which Baghdad under- 
went a second siege, and the Turkish soldiers made and 
murdered caliphs at their pleasure. Rebellions, too, 

1 Journal R.G.S. for February 191 1. 


broke out in every part of the Empire, and the dis- 
integration of the Caliphate was hastened by the anarchy 
at headquarters, which paralysed all attempts at repression 
and left the provincial governors without support. 

The Rise of the Saffar Dynasty. — During the Caliphate 
of Mutawakkil a certain Salih ibn Nasr collected a body 
of men in Sistan under the pretext of crushing an out- 
break of Kharijites, and seized the province. The 
Tahirid prince marched to Sistan in person and succeeded 
in putting an end to the fighting between Salih and the 
Kharijites, but upon his departure Salih again took the 
field and was apparently allowed to hold the province 
without further molestation. 

Among his most able adherents was a certain Yakub 
bin Lais, known as SafFar, or " the Coppersmith," from 
the trade pursued by his family. This extraordinary 
adventurer, who while still a boy was noted for his 
generosity, upon reaching manhood took to highway 
robbery, which has frequently been a road to distinction 
in Persia. His generosity and courage speedily brought 
him success and a large following, which he placed at the 
disposal of Salih, and in a.h. 247 (861), the year in which 
Mutawakkil was assassinated, he became commander or 
the army of Sistan under Salih's successor. His first 
success was the capture of Herat in a.h. 253 (876), and 
having overrun and annexed Kerman^ and subsequently 
Pars, he soon became ruler of an extensive kingdom. 
He founded a short-lived dynasty which is remembered 
with much affection by Persians, both because they 
consider it to be the first Persian dynasty after the Arab 
conquest, and also because it sprang from Sistan, the 
home of Rustam and of the Keianian line. 

Motamid^ a.h. 256-279 (870-892). — After nine years 
of anarchy, Motamid, the eldest surviving son of 
Mutawakkil, was elected Caliph. The Court returned 
to Baghdad, where Turkish influence was less strong, 
and guided by Motamid's brother, Muaffak, who actually 

1 Many years ago I was allowed to see and make a precis of an old manuscript 
history of Bam by a certain Sayyid Tahir-u-Din ibn Shams-u-Din of Bam. In it 
Yakub and his brother are praised, the former for improving the city of Jiruft and the 
latter for building a mosque in it. 



StxinfoT-d.'s Geog . £r«ta2> *^ondoyv- 


ruled the Empire, the apparently moribund Caliphate 
regained vigour and prestige. 

The Zanj Insurrection^ a.h. 255-270 (869-883). — No 
saying is truer than that history repeats itself, and the 
insurrection of the Zanj or "Ethiopians" resembles 
closely the Servile War headed by Spartacus which con- 
vulsed the republic of Rome in the seventh decade b.c. 
The Persian who headed the rising pretended to be 
descended from Ali, and at first laid claim to a spiritual 
leadership, but this pretension was soon forgotten and he 
merely appealed to the slaves, to whom he promised 
liberty and plunder. After meeting with scant success 
in Arabia, he occupied the country round Basra, including 
the lower valley of the Karun, where thousands of slaves 
and many Beduin flocked to his standards. Again and 
again the imperial armies were defeated, and* Basra itself 
was stormed by the Zanj and given over to pillage and 
massacre. The hordes then spread southward along both 
coasts of the Persian Gulf, and northward till they captured 
Wasit and sacked Ahwaz. At last Muaffak, who had 
hitherto not been free to devote his entire attention to 
this serious outbreak, concentrated a large force ; the 
Zanj were surrounded in the difficult and marshy district 
of the lower delta, and, after fifteen years of massacre 
and rapine, Khabis^ or " the Reprobate," was slain and 
thousands of prisoners were released. 

The Brilliant Career of Takub bin Lais, — We must 
here return to Yakub bin Lais and follow his career to 
its close. In a.h. 257 (871) he sent an envoy to Muaifak 
with instructions to state that his master deemed himself 
a humble slave of the Caliph, to whom he proposed to 
offer his respects in person. As it was thought desirable 
to keep Yakub as far away from Baghdad as possible, 
the Caliph bestowed on him the governments of 
Balkh, Tokharistan, and other distant eastern provinces. 
Strengthened by his appointment as a high official of the 
Caliphate, Yakub was everywhere victorious, even distant 
Kabul being captured, together with its Turkish king, 
who was a Buddhist. At length the Sistan adventurer 
was ready to attack the Tahirid prince, who had apparently 


been a passive spectator of conquests which had robbed 
him of many of his provinces, and who offered no des- 
perate resistance. Having mastered Khorasan, Yakub 
proceeded to attack neighbouring Tabaristan. At Sari 
he defeated Hasan bin Zayd, its independent prince of 
the House of Ali, but, pursuing him towards Gilan, he 
lost most of his men in the pestilential swamps, and per- 
force returned to Sistan to recruit. 

Yakub was now master of half Persia, in addition to 
many eastern provinces, and, elated by a succession of 
victorious campaigns, in a.h. 262 (875) he decided to 
try conclusions with the CaHph himself. He began with 
a formal demand for the province of Pars ; Motamid not 
only refused this, but " dismissed " the conqueror from 
the governorship of Khorasan. Yakub immediately 
advanced on Baghdad, and near the capital met Muaffak, 
who defeated him with heavy loss, which included his 
entire camp. Yakub, however, was not discouraged, 
but, returning to Pars, prepared to raise a new army. 
His self-confidence was so great that he refused with 
scorn an offer of assistance from the Zanj leader, which 
he answered in the words of the Koran, " I worship not 
that which ye worship ; neither do ye worship that which 
I worship.'* 

Three years later, in a.h. 265 (878), the Caliph sent 
an embassy of friendly remonstrance to Yakub. When 
it arrived the great adventurer lay dying, with his sword 
by his side and a crust and onions ready to be served for 
his coarse meal. In this state he received the envoy, and 
gave the reply which forms the heading to this chapter ; 
shortly afterwards he died. 

The Origin of the Ismaili Sect, — As stated in Chapter 
XLVII., the doctrine of the Imamate, by which one of 
the descendants of Ali must be invested with supreme 
spiritual leadership and was endowed with supernatural 
and semi-divine attributes, was a fundamental article of 
belief among the Shias. The first six Imams,^ as far as 
Jafar as-Sadik, who died in a.d. 765 during the reign of 
Mansur, were universally accepted, but Jafar, who had 
in the first instance designated his son Ismail to succeed 


him, later cut him out of the spiritual succession in favour 
of a younger son Musa, known as Kazim. The reason 
for this action is stated to have been that Ismail had 
drunk the forbidden wine. Shortly after this, and during 
the lifetime of Jafar, Ismail, the disinherited son, died. 
This act of disinheritance divided the Shias, for, although 
the large majority followed Musa, a considerable minority 
remained faithful to Ismail or rather, as he had never 
been Imam, to his son Mohamed, whom they believed 
to be the seventh and last Imam. 

The Carmathians, — The first missionary of the Ismaili 
faith in Irak during the Caliphate of Motazid was a certain 
Hamdan, surnamed Carmat, after whom the adherents 
of the doctrine were nicknamed Carmathians. He offered 
to join the Zanj leader, the " Reprobate," with one hundred 
thousand men, but they differed in their tenets and were 
unable to combine. Little seems to be known of Carmat's 
life, but he fell by the hands of an assassin. Later, the 
sons of a certain Zakaria, and after their capture and 
execution Zakaria himself, became leaders of the sect and 
engaged in savage wars.^ 

At the beginning of the fourth century of the Hijra 
Basra was stormed by Sulayman, yet another fanatic, and 
afterwards Kufa, and the terrible anarchy culminated in the 
sack of Mecca in a.h. 317 (929) and the carrying away of 
the Black Stone. After this the storm subsided and the 
sect was weakened by dissensions, but the recorded fact that 
in A.H. 396 (985) Multan was governed by a Carmathian 
shows how for its power and influence reached. These 
sects, all of whom fought against society, constitute one 
of the darkest sides to Islam. As will be seen later, their 
doctrines continued to be preached in Persia. 

The Rise of the Samanid Dynasty. — More powerful 
than the Tahirid or SafKirid families, which flourished in 
the one case only just over, and in the other just under, 
half a century, was the Samanid dynasty, which endured 
for a century and a quarter. Its founder was Saman, a 
Persian nobleman or Balkh, descended from Bahram 

^ Al-biruni in his Chronology of Ancier.t Nations devotes a chapter to the eras of the 
Pseudo-Prophets, to which I would refer the curious reader. The best account of the 
Carmathians is in Encycl, Religion and Ethta^ vol. iii. p. 222. 


Chubin. Being driven away from his native town he 
appealed to Asad ibn AbduUa, who was governor of 
Khorasan under Mehdi and strongly espoused his cause. 
In gratitude for the help thus aflForded, Saman, who had 
until then remained a follower of the old religion, not 
only became a convert to Islam, but named his son Asad 
as a compliment to his protector. Saman had four sons, 
who served Haroun and materially aided in putting down 
the rebeUion of Rafi. Mamun in recognition of these 
services gave to the four brothers the governorships of 
Samarcand, Farghana, Shash, and Herat, and under the 
Tahirid dynasty these grants were confirmed. 

The ablest member of the family was Ahmad, who 
was succeeded by his son Nasr, and it would appear that 
upon the downfall of the Tahirids the Samanids retained 
their position, probably by an arrangement made with 
Yakub bin Lais, though the details are obscure. At any 
rate, in a.h. 261, or two years after the overthrow of the 
Tahirids by Yakub, Nasr and his brother Ismail are found 
to be in possession of the provinces across the Oxus, and 
this year is taken as the date of the foundation of the 
dynasty. Ismail showed conspicuous military capacity, 
but the two brothers quarrelled and a civil war ensued 
in which Ismail emerged the victor. With remarkable 
generosity .he permitted Nasr to retain the government 
until his death in a.h. 279 (892). 

The Career of Amr-ul-Lats^ a.h. 265-290 (878- 
903). — After the death of Yakub his brother Amr made 
peace with the Caliph and ruled Khorasan and other pro- 
vinces for six years as his deputy. He was then dismissed 
by Motamid, who by that time felt strong enough to deal 
with him. But he lingered on at Nishapur, which he 
loved, and the following lines which are attributed to him 
give his lament : 

Its stones are turquoises, its bushes rhubarb. 

And its dust edible clay.^ How could I leave such a land ? 

The province, however, together with an army, was 
assigned to Rafi ibn Harthama, who defeated the Saffarid 

^ This is found in various parts of Khorasan and is eaten more especially by 
pregnant women j 'v'lde "A Sixth Journey in Persia," Journal R.G.S., January 1911. 


and drove him back to his native Sistan. In a.h. 279 
(870) Motamid was succeeded by Motazid, who, reversing 
his brother^s pohcy, reappointed Amr to Khorasan. 
Presumably the Caliph realized his weakness and sought 
to play off Amr against the powerful Rafi and the still more 
powerful Ismail. In a.h. 283(896) Amr took possession 
of Nishapur, defeating Rafi, whom he captured and slew, 
and whose head he sent to Baghdad. Intoxicated by this 
success, the victor demanded that Ismail should be dis- 
missed from Transoxiana, and the Caliph with characteristic 
duplicity seems to have encouraged him to attack the 
Samanid ruler, whom he at the same time encouraged to 
resist. The campaign, after a keen struggle, ended in 
A.H. 288 (900) in the siege and capture of Balkh, where 
Amr was made prisoner. One of the famous stories of 
the East relates to his fall. A servant, it is said, while 
cooking some meat for the captive leader, left the pot for 
a moment to procure some salt. A dog tried to snatch 
the meat, but the handle of the pot fell on its neck, and 
as it bolted, pot and all, Amr exclaimed : " This morning 
three hundred camels bore my kitchen, and to-night a 
dog has carried it off! '* Amr also figures in a polo story 
in the Kabus Nama^ from which it appears that he was 
one eyed. 

Ismail was prepared to treat his captive generously, 
but the Caliph insisted on his being sent to Baghdad, 
where he was executed in a.h. 290 (903). He was 
succeeded by his son, who held Sistan for only a year, 
after which the power of the short-lived dynasty came to 
an abrupt end ; although Sistan for a few generations and 
Baluchistan for many centuries continued to be governed 
by scions of the Saflarid House.^ 

The Samanid Dynasty at its Zenith. — Upon the death 
of Nasr, Ismail succeeded and began a career of conquest 
which raised his principality to a kingdom. Curiously 
enough, his first campaign was a Holy War against the 
Christian settlement of Taraz, which resulted in its 
conquest and the conversion to Islam of its Amir and 

^ Ten Thousand Mi/eSy etc., p. 539. 
^ yiiie Ten Thousand M'tUiy etc.y p. 229. 


leading inhabitants. The defeat and capture of Amr in 
A.H. 288 (900)5 recorded in the preceding section, were 
the culminating success of his career, and were rewarded 
by a patent from the Caliph appointing him to the 
governorship of Khorasan, Turkestan, Transoxiana, Sind, 
Hind, and Jurgan. Though, as Vamb^ry points out in 
his History of Bokhara^ the names of Hind and Sind were 
inserted merely by way of idle boast, Ismail's kingdom 
was a great one, and he was not content to rest on his 
laurels, but conducted successful campaigns against the 
Turks to the East. 

Ismail chose Bokhara as his capital, and to him it 
mainly owes its title of Sharif^ or Noble. Its fort dates 
back to the time of this great Samanid, who gathered 
round him a brilliant galaxy of historians, poets, and 
doctors of law, and brought in the golden age of the city 
on the Zarafshan. 

Ismail was succeeded by Ahmad, who was murdered 
in A.H. 301 (913) after an inglorious reign. Nasr, his 
son, a boy of eight, then ascended the throne, and during 
a reign of thirty years extended the possessions of the 
dynasty by annexing Rei, Kum, and Isfahan, at the request 
of the Caliph, to whom the dynasty rendered homage and 
nominal obedience. Nasr II. was the Mamun of the 
Samanid dynasty, and we have the following account of 
the glories of his court from a contemporary, Abdul 
Malik of Nishapur, who writes : " Bokhara was, under 
the Samanid rule, the Focus of Splendour, the Shrine of 
Empire, the Meeting-place of the most unique intellects 
of the Age, the Horizon of the literary stars of the World, 
and the fair of the greatest scholars of the Period." ^ 

Its Decay and Downfall, — Nasr was succeeded by Noh 
or Noah, under whom the dynasty decayed, its kings 
falling under the influence of Turkish slaves who were 
promoted to the highest posts. Noh was followed by 
Abdul Malik, the patron of Alptigin, who was killed at 
polo after a rule of seven years ; his brother Mansur 
revived the prestige of the dynasty by exacting a tribute 
from the Daylami rulers of Irak and Fars. NohlL, who 

^ Quoted from Browne, op. cit. p. 365. 


succeeded Mansur, suffered a series of vicissitudes, and is 
chiefly famous as having been cured by Abu Ali bin Sina, 
the great Avicenna. His nobles conspired against him 
and invited Boghra Khan,^ who from his capital at 
Kashgar ruled over a confederacy of Turkish tribes, to 
invade the Samanid kingdom. Boghra Khan captured 
Bokhara but died shordy afterwards, and Noh, who had 
become a fugitive, returned. His nobles then fled to 
Khorasan, where they obtained help from the Daylami 
prince, and Noh in despair summoned to his aid 
Sabaktagin, who had founded the state of Ghazna at the 
expense of the Samanid dynasty. He readily sent a 
force which won a decisive victory near Herat, the batde 
being chiefly memorable as the first in which his son 
Mahmud, the future champion of Islam, fought, winning 
thereby as his reward from the grateful Noh the province 
of Khorasan : other victories were gained at Nishapur 
and at Tus. 

Mansur II., the son and successor of Noh, was a poet 
of whose compositions fragments have been preserved. 
In reply to his companions who asked _ the distracted 
monarch why he never put off armour, he explained : 

They ask me why fine robes I do not wear. 
Nor covet stately tent with carpets rare. 
'Midst clash of arms, what boots the minstrel's power ? 
'Midst rush of steeds, what place for rose-girt bower ? 
Nor wine nor sweet-lipped Saki aught avail 
Where blood is splattered o'er the coats of mail. 
Arms, horse for me, banquet and bower enow. 
Tulip and lily mine the dart and bow.^ 

This martial sovereign did not live to see the extinction 
of his proud dynasty, but his successor, Abdul Malik, the 
last of his line, was seized by Ilak Khan, of the Turkish 
dynasty mentioned above, and thrown into prison, where 
he died. The capture of Abdul Malik took place in 
A.H. 389 (999)5 and this date marks the downfall of the 
Samanid dynasty, after a splendid though not unchequered 
career of exacdy a century and a quarter. 

1 The dynasty is termed the Ilak Khans of Turkestan by Stanley Lane-Poole in 
his Mohamedan Dynasties^ and the Kara-Khanides by Skrine and Ross in The Heart 

of Asia. 

2 Quoted from Browne, op. cit. p. 409. 


Thz Ziyarid Dynas:y^ a.h. 316—434 (928—1042), — 
During the reign of Nasr II. the province of Tabaristan 
was recovered for the House of Ali by Hasan bin Ali- 
Utrushj but a few years later, in a.h. 316 (928), a 
certain Mardawij bin Ziyar contrived to seize it and 
to occupy Isfahan and the country beyond Hainadan as 
far as Hohvan. He established a dynasty which was 
noted for its devotion to learninor and which endured for 
rather over a century, although no member except its 
founder played a leading r61e on the stage of Persia. 
The best known of his successors ^vas Kabus, a.h. 366— 
403 (976-1012), the patron of .AJ-biruni, who dedicated 
to him his famous Chronology of Ancient Nations 
and resided at his court for manv vears. Nor was he 
merely a patron of letters : he was himself a poet of 
no mean order, writing both in Arabic and in Persian.^ 
In the latter language he composed an exquisite quatrain, 
translated as follows : 

Mirth's King the Rose is, Wine Joy's Herald eke ; 
Hence from these two do I ray pleasure seek ; 
Would'st thou, O IMoon, inquire the cause of this ? 
AMne's taste thy lips recalls, the Rose thy cheek ! 

The career of Kabus was extremely chequered. He 
protected Fakhr-u-Dola, one of the Buwayhid princes, 
against his two brothers, the powerful Azud-u-Dola and 
the Muayyid-u-Dola, and in consequence was driven out 
of his princedom for many years. Upon his return, 
although he was famed for " his learning, piety, munifi- 
cence, magnanimity, wisdom, prudence, and intelligence,"^ 
his nobles, exasperated by his cruelty, deposed him and 
afterwards had him secretly murdered. 

In 1908 I visited his tomb, which, as Ibn Isfiindiyar 
states, is "outside Gurgan on the road to Khorasan." As 
the illustration shows, it is a lofty decagon with a curious 
conical roof, which is visible for miles across the level 
steppe. The Kutic inscription, which is in duplicate bands 

^ Browne, v/. aV. p. 470. 

3 Vldi Ibn Ist'andiyar's HiiW^-^of Ti:l'jristi:.'u which is a mine of information about 
this period. In the Kahus -N'jmj an amusing story is given to prove how well informetl 
Kabus kept himself of what went on at the neighbouring courts. /':./«• Ouerrv's 
translation, p. 41 -?. 

;? pfipi wf 

Fitv/i a photograpli l>y Major J. If. U'ntsoii. 

I'lIK GLINB.\I)-I-K.\ru;S. 


of brickwork, states that " this lofty grave was built by 
the orders of Shams-ul-Maali, the Amir, son of the Amir 
Kabus, son of Washmgir, during his lifetime, in a.h. 375 
(997)-**^ It is one of the oldest buildings with a 
known date in North-Eastern Persia. Kabus's grandson, 
Kei Kaus, bin Iskandar, bin Kabus, was the author of 
the famous Kabus Nama^ which gives rules of life in a 
delightful manner and is accessible to the European 
world through a French translation. 

The Buwayhid or Daylamite Dynasty^ a.h. 320-447 
(932-1055). — The founder of the Ziyarid House quite 
unconsciously assisted to found another dynasty far more 
powerful than his own, by bestowing the governorship 
of Karaj, a district to the south of Hamadan, on Ali bin 
Buwayha, who, aided by his two capable brothers, soon 
extended his power southwards to the province of Fars, 
which he occupied. This family sprang from a Persian 
tribe in Daylam which claimed descent from Bahram Gur ^ 
and professed Shia doctrines. Ali seems to have been a 
favourite of fortune. After his conquest of Fars he was 
one day lying on a couch in the palace at Shiraz when he 
observed a snake dart out its head from a hole. Calling 
for masons to break down the wall, he found a secret 
chamber, in which was collected the entire treasure of 
Yakut, the dispossessed Governor, who had represented the 
Caliph. Shortly afterwards a tailor came to Ali for orders, 
and upon his sending for a stick with which to measure 
cloth, the man, mistaking his intention, threw himself 
at his feet and said that if his life were spared he would 
give up all Yakut's cloth, which he was at once allowed 

to do ! 

Ahmad, the most famous of Ali's brothers, em- 
barked on a career of conquest ; details of his exploits 
in the Kerman province can be gleaned from the local 
histories.^ It appears that Kerman city was held by a 

1 "A Sixth Journey in Persia," Journal R.G.S. for January 191 1. 

2 Al-biruni (Sachau's edition), pp. 4.5-4.6, does not allow the genuineness of this claim. 

3 I have made a precis of two histories of Kerman : (a) The history of Afzal-u- 
Din, known as Afzal Kermani. This was written in a.h. 584 (1188) for Malik Dinar, 
who' was then ruler of Kerman. The manuscript was lithographed at Teheran in 
A.D. 1876. It deals mainly with the sixth century of the Hijra and contains some 
interesting information, {h) The history of Mohamed Ibrahim, who, from a remark 


robber called Mohamed ibn llias but known as Abu Ali, 
and when Ahmad, having captured Sirjan, was besieging 
Kerman, Abu Ali adopted the unusual course of fighting 
by day and sending gifts by night, with the result that he 
was allowed to keep Kerman on the condition that he 
paid tribute. In an expedition to Jiruft the Buwayhid 
prince was ambushed in the Dilfard pass, and according 
to the chronicler escaped with only a few men and the 
loss of one of his hands. This, however, was merely a 
temporary reverse, and marching westwards he annexed 
Fars in conjunction with his brothers in a.h. 322 (934). 

The Caliph was obliged to recognize the conquerors as 
his lieutenants. After organizing the captured provinces, 
Ahmad first moved westward and annexed Khuzistan, 
and ultimately in a.h. 334 (945) entered Baghdad, where 
the Caliph perforce welcomed him, bestowing on him the 
title of Muizz-u-Dola and the rank of Amtr-ul-Omara^ or 
"Amir of Amirs," which was held by the family for many 
generations.^ The unfortunate Caliph was subsequently 
deposed, and his successors were puppets in the hands 
of the Buwayhid chiefs, who retained all power for about 
a century. 

It is beyond the scope of this work to deal in detail 
with the three families of Fars, Irak, and Rei, into which 
the dynasty broke up ; but I will attempt to give briefly 
some of the leading events of the period. Muizz-u-Dola 
died in a,h. 356 (967), and the next great member of the 
dynasty was Azud-u-Dola, who held the post of Vizier 
to the puppet Caliph and ruled Irak and Fars. His 
operations against his brother Fakhr-u-Dola have already 
been referred to in connexion with Kabus. He was an 
exceptionally enlightened prince, who encouraged pilgrims 
by restoring the sacred buildings at Medina, Najaf, and 
Kerbela. Moreover, he established hospitals for the 
poor of Baghdad, appointing physicians with regular 

made by him, appears to have travelled to Sistan in a.h. 1025 (1636). The manuscript 
of this work was published by Houtsma in a.d. 1886. It deals with ihc Seljuks of 
Kerman and gives the chief events of the province from a.h. 433 (1041) to a.h. 619 
(1222), i.e. up to the era of the Kutlugh Khans. 

^ Curiously enough, this high-sounding title is now used only in writing to nomad 
chiefs of secondary importance, such as the Ilkhani of Kuchan or the Chief of the 
Hazara tribe in Khorasan. 


salaries, and purchasing drugs and other requisites. In 
Fars, too, his public works were numerous, and one of 
them, a dam on the river Kur, which is crossed a few 
miles south of Persepolis, is still termed Band-i-Amir, 
or the " Dam of the Amir," and is responsible for the 
lines of Moore : 

There's a bower of roses hy Bendemeer's stream, 
And the nightingale sings round it all the day long. 

The decay of the dynasty was rapid after the death 
of the Azud-u-Dola, and Mahmud of Ghazna prepared 
to attack Rei, which during the minority of the Majd-u- 
Dola was ruled by his mother. This intrepid woman 
returned the following reply to an envoy sent by Mahmud 
to demand her submission : " Had this message been 
sent in the lifetime of my deceased lord it» would have 
caused serious trouble, but such is no longer the case. 
I know Sultan Mahmud and am aware that he will never 
undertake a campaign without weighing all the risks. 
If he attacks and conquers a weak woman, where is the 
glory of such an achievement .^^ If he be repulsed, the 
latest ages will hear of his shame." 

Whether or not Mahmud was swayed by these argu- 
ments, he postponed his designs until the Majd-u-Dola 
had attained his majority. Then, in a.h. 387 (997), he 
sent an army which seized the person of the prince by 
treachery and occupied Khorasan and Kumis. The 
family, however, retained Southern Persia and Irak for 
some time to come, until the Seljuks appeared on the 
scene and ended the rule of this Persian dynasty. 

The Dynasty of Ghazna, a.h. 351-582 (962-1186). 
— Under Abdul Malik the Samanid there was a certain 
Alptigin, a Turkish slave, who became commander-in- 
chief in Khorasan. Upon the death of the monarch he 
retired to Ghazna in the Sulayman mountains, where his 
father had been governor, and there he, his son, and his 
slave Balkatigin in turn ruled in obscurity. The real 
founder of the famous dynasty was Sabaktagin, another 
slave, who succeeded to the governorship through his 
marriage with Alptigin's daughter. This truly remark- 


able man extended his petty fief both eastwards and west- 
wards, on the one hand defeating the Rajputs and seizing 
Peshawar, and on the other, as already recounted, receiv- 
ing Khorasan in a.h. 384 (994) from the Samanid 
monarch Noh. 

Sabaktagin was succeeded by Mahmud, one of the 
greatest figures on the stage of Central Asia, whose twelve 
campaigns in India and zeal for Islam have earned for 
him the title of " Idol-breaker." These campaigns lie 
outside the scope of this work, but his ultimate seizure 
of Khorasan, which has already been mentioned, belongs 
to Persian history. In Sistan the Conqueror found a 
certain Khalaf, a grandson of Amr-ul-Lais, who* had held 
the province of Kerman for some time. Of him it is 
related that, in order to induce the Sistanis to support 
him in his designs on that province, he arranged for his 
envoys to be poisoned at Kerman and then raised an army 
to avenge the outrage ! 

According to Persian legend, Mahmud spared the life 
of Khalaf, who won his heart by addressing him as 
" Sultan," and who passed the rest of his existence as 
Master of Horse to the " Idol-breaker." Later on, in 
A.H. 398 (1007), Khorasan was invaded by Ilak Khan, 
the destroyer of the Samanid dynasty, who took advantage 
of the absence of Mahmud from Central Asia. But the 
great soldier speedily returned, and in a desperately con- 
tested battle near Balkh gained a decisive victory, driving 
the invaders into the Oxus ; some years later he also 
annexed Bokhara and Samarcand. Mahmud's last 
campaign was directed against the Buwayhid dynasty, and 
after the capture of Isfahan he returned to Ghazna, 
where he died in a.h. 421 (1030). 

It is interesting to note how anxious Mahmud was 
for recognition by the Caliph. He sent to Baghdad 
accounts of his victories, accompanied by splendid gifts, 
and in return was granted titles,^ which gave him im- 
mense gratification. One of the stories of the East tells 
us how, in the first decree, Mahmud was termed MVr, 
which may mean either a chief or a slave, instead of Amir. 

^ In Browne's op. cit. vol. ii. p. 105 his titles are given in full. 


A Persian courtier explained to his furious master that 
the omission of the alif or " A " conveyed a delicate 
request from the Caliph's Vizier for a thousand gold 
coins, the symbol for which is alif. The money was sent 
and a new decree was obtained, in which Mahmud was 
styled Amir. The prestige of the Caliph and the craving 
for recognition by him constituted practically all that was 
left of his power, but it was a force that had to be 
reckoned with and was doubtless of material assistance 
in maintaining the Caliphate. Soon after the death or 
Mahmud the western provinces of this extensive empire 
were annexed by the Seljuks, with the result that the 
dynasty looked eastwards for compensation and became 
thenceforth so much identified with India that Lahore 
was selected as the capital of the later Ghaznavid princes. 


ToGHRiL Beg. 



While Apulia and Sicily were subdued by the Norman lance, a swarm of 
northern shepherds overspread the kingdoms of Persia ; their princes of the 
race of Seljuk erected a splendid and solid empire from Samarcand to the 
confines of Greece and Egypt. — Gibbon. 

/ The Importance of the Seljuks, — The previous chapter 
/is little more than a medley, dealing as it does with 
/ numerous short-lived dynasties which seized upon various 
provinces of the decrepit Caliphate and then tumbled to 
L pieces mainly from internal dissensions. The advent of 
a new power, the Seljuk Turks, constitutes a notable 
epoch in the history of the Middle and Near East, if only 
because it swept away these insignificant and divided 
dynasties and once again united Islam under a single 
powerful sway, stretching from Turkestan to the Medi- 
terranean Sea. More than this, the Seljuks, with the 
fervour of recent converts, revitalized Islam, just as the 
Norsemen revitalized Christendom, and when Europe 
under Norman leaders attacked the East under the 
impulse of the Crusades it was the light horse of the 
Seljuks which met the heavy horse of the Crusaders.-^ 

Their Origin, — The Seljuks were a branch of the 
Ghuzz Turks, from whom, however, they kept distinct. 
Their founder was Tukak (signifying a bow), the father 

^ The authorities for this chapter include Browne, vol.ii., and Skrine and Ross's Heart 
of Asia ; the native chronicles referred to in the previous chapter are again used, more 
especially in connexion with the Seljuks of Kerman. I have also consulted a synopsis 
by Browne of The Notification of Kings, by Najm-u-Din, composed in a.h. 599 (1202), 
•vide art. xxvii. of Journal R.A.S. for 1902. 



of Seljuk, who with his tribe crossed from Turkestan 
into Transoxiana and embraced Islam with deep fervour. 
He and his descendants took part in the wars of the 
period, and speedily came into collision with Mahmud. 
The story runs that the great Conqueror asked Israil, the 
son of Seljuk, how many men followed him to battle, to 
which the nomad chief replied that if he despatched an 
arrow to his tents one hundred thousand men would 
prepare for war, but that if his bow were seen two 
hundred thousand men would join the former force. 
Sultan Mahmud, alarmed at this new power, imprisoned 
Israil, and, hoping probably to weaken the tribe by 
moving it away from its habitat, settled it in the district 
of Nisa,^ and in Abivard, near the modern Kakha on the 
Central Asian Railway. The newcomers, under their 
chief, Mikail, proved unruly, and in the year, before the 
death of Mahmud they attempted to invade Khorasan, but 
were driven back. 

Masud of Ghazna, — Masud, the son of Mahmud, was 
from the outset unfortunate. After he had deposed his 
brother, not only was Khorasan attacked by the ferocious 
Ghuzz, who were destined to play a sinister part in Iran, 
but a rebellion broke out at the same time in India. To 
add to his misfortunes, Khorasan also rebelled, owing to 
being unprotected from the Ghuzz ; and the Ziyarid 
prince of Gurgan and Tabaristan and the Governor of 
Khwarazm both seized the opportunity to throw off their 
allegiance. But Masud was no weakling, and in a.h. 426 
(1035) ^^ brought a large army from India, drove the 
Ghuzz from Tus and Nishapur, and invaded Tabaristan, 
which submitted. He then left Khorasan and busied 
himself with his possessions in India, to which he attached 
greater importance, probably because they yielded a larger 

The Founding of the Seljuk Dynasty^ a.h. 429 (1037). 
— To return to the Seljuks, Mikail, the brother of Israil, 
had two sons famous as Toghril (or " Falcon '*) and 
Chakir, to whom Masud had recourse in the operations 
against the Ghuzz aiid who aided him in driving these 

^ The site of Nisa is ten miles to the south-west of Askabad. 


invaders out of Khorasan. But they were faithless allies, 
and the very next year, after the departure of Masud, 
Chakir Beg attacked and defeated the Ghaznavid general 
near Merv. In the following year Chakir captured 
Merv, and in a.h. 429 (1037) Toghril seized Nishapur. 
Khorasan thus passed into his hands, and Lane-Poole 
appropriately dates the foundation of the Seljuk dynasty 
from this important event. Masud, who had been unable 
to concentrate his attention upon the invaders because of 
disturbances in India, returned to fight for Khorasan, and 
in A.H. 43 1 (1040) suffered a crushing defeat. He retired 
to recruit fresh troops in India, where his army mutinied, 
with the result that he was deposed and afterwards 
murdered. Three years later Modud, son of Masud, 
was defeated, and after this campaign the Seljuk power 
was established in Khorasan, and the Ghaznavid dynasty 
turned its entire attention to its Indian possessions. 

The Career of Toghril Begy a.h. 429-455 (1037-1063). 
— I have already mentioned Mahmud's craving for 
recognition by the Caliph and for a grant of titles. Upon 
the defeat of the son of Masud similar recognition was 
sought by the Seljuk victors, in a letter wherein they 
assured the Caliph of their loyalty. Needless to say, 
their request was granted, Kaim causing ToghriFs name 
to be read in the mosques and placed on the coins before 
that of the chief of the waning Buwayhid dynasty. 

The conquering Seljuks had now spread all over 
Persia, which was divided up among various branches of 
the ruling family, and in a.h. 447 (1005) Toghril Beg 
crowned his victories by making a state visit to Baghdad. 
An account of the ceremony observed on this historical 
occasion has been handed down, and is of particular 
interest as showing the prestige which still attached to 
the Caliphate. The Seljuk conqueror, escorted by his 
nobles, approached the sacred presence on foot and un- 
armed. He was received by the Successor of the 
Prophet, who, seated on a golden throne concealed by 
hangings, wore the famous black mantle of the Abbasids 
and grasped the staff of Mohamed in his right hand. 
Toghril in awe and reverence fell on his face and kissed 


the ground, and after a pause was conducted to a throne 
placed near that of the Caliph. A decree was then read, 
appointing him the Viceregent of the Successor of the 
Prophet and Lord of all Moslems. Seven robes of 
honour and seven slaves were then bestowed upon the 
Seljuk to symbolize the seven regions of the Caliphate ; 
a rich brocade scented with musk was draped over his 
head, surmounted by twin crowns to signify the kingship 
of Arabia and Persia ; and, to complete the investiture — 
the word here bears its literal meaning — he was girded 
with two swords to signify that he was ruler of the East 
and of the West. Some may think that the Caliph was 
merely masking his impotence by a ceremony that was 
little more than mummery ; but it is more reasonable 
to suppose that the Seljuk chieftain did not so regard it, 
but felt after the investiture that his conquests had been 
legally recognized and that his crown had been hallowed 
by the religious head of Islam. 

After remaining in Baghdad for about a year, during 
which his niece, sister of Alp Arslan, was married to the 
Caliph, Toghril continued his victorious career until in 
Georgia and Iberia his hordes came into collision with 
the armies of Byzantium. To quote Gibbon, " the 
shepherd presumed to despatch an ambassador, or herald, 
to demand the tribute and obedience of the Emperor of 
Constantinople." Upon his return to Baghdad the ever- 
victorious Seljuk was rewarded with the high-sounding 
title of " King of the East and of the West." He 
demanded a sister of the Caliph in marriage, and this 
supreme honour was reluctantly granted ; but he died 
before the ceremony could be completed. 

Thus passed off the stage, at the age of seventy, 
Rukn-u-Din, Abu Talib, Toghril Beg, the leader of a 
s^aYe—of^irile Turks from the East, who, although 
Moslems themselves, overwhelmed the kingdoms owning 
lUegiance to the Caliphate. A notable personality, he 
raised his tribe from mere tenders of sheep and robbers to 
become the possessors of a wide empire. Little is known 
3f the character of this extraordinary man, save that he 
ivas harsh when necessary, strict in his religious observ- 


ances, and secretive, but more generous in disposition than 
his upbringing and circumstances would lead us to expect. 

Malik Kaward of Kermafty A.H. 433—465 (1041-1072), 
— Although it was the career of Toghril Beg that 
governed the fortunes of the Seljuk dynasty, we may 
turn aside for a moment to notice the Kerman dynasty, 
which lasted from a.h. 433 (1041) to a.h. 583 (11 87), 
albeit its importance was mainly confined to the lifetime 
of its founder Imad-u-Din, Kara Arslan Kaward, the 
eldest son of Chakir Beg. This scion of the House of 
Seljuk was vigorous and capable, and found little difficulty 
in seizing the province from the Buwayhid rulers, who 
were weakened by family feuds. The chronicler Mohamed 
Ibrahim relates that when Abu Kalinjar, the Imad-u-Din, 
marched from Fars to defend the province he was 
poisoned by a favourite slave girl, but further efforts 
apparently were made after his death. The Seljuk now 
had to deal with the " Hot Country,'* which at this period 
was independent. Here again treachery was employed, 
and Malik Kaward, as he is generally termed, not only 
annexed the country down to the coast but compelled 
the Governor of Hormuz to fit out a fleet, in which he 
crossed to Oman. As the result of his expedition this 
province of Arabia remained for many years tributary to 

Later in his reign Malik Kaward turned his attention 
to Sistan, building a fort to close the pass on the only 
route which united the two provinces, and erecting pillars 
to serve as beacons in the desert. One of these two 
columns, which is still intact, is now termed " the Column 
of Nadir " ; it was owing to the chronicle of Mohamed 
Ibrahim that I was able to assign it to the first Seljuk 
ruler of Kerman.-^ 

The ambitions of Malik Kaward were boundless, and 
he soon added Fars to his kingdom ; but he was obliged 
to surrender this to Alp Arslan, who besieged Kerman. 
Finally, upon the accession of Malik Shah, he made a bid 
for the throne, and paid the penalty with his life. 

J/p Arslan^ a.h. ^SS-^^S (1063-1072). — During his 

^ Ten Thousand Miles, etc., p. 418. 


lifetime Toghril chose Azud-u-Din, Abu Shuja Alp 
Arslan, son of Chakir Beg and younger brother of Malik 
Kaward, as his successor. After ToghriFs death, Al- 
Kunduri/ his minister, unwisely supported Sulayman, 
brother of his late master, but in vain, and he himself was 
put to death. His dying message to Alp Arslan ran : 
" Say to the King, ' Lo, a fortunate service has your 
service been to me ; for thy uncle gave me this world to 
rule over, whilst thou, giving me the martyr's portion, 
hast granted me the other world ; so, by your service, 
have I gained this world and that ! ' " The " Conquering 
Lion " — to translate his title — mighty ruler though he 
was, is chiefly remembered in connexion with Abu Ali 
Hasan bin Ishak, famous in history as the Nizam-ul- 
Mulk. This great statesman was born at Radkan, some 
fifty miles to the north of Meshed, and after enjoying a 
good education attracted the favourable notice of Chakir 
Beg. Having been recommended to Alp Arslan, he 
became his Vizier. He is always looked upon as the 
model of a great minister, and some, at least, of his work 
has endured ; for the Persian system of accounts which 
prevails to-day is believed to have been originated by 
him. Among his proteges was Omar Khayyam, the 
Persian poet best known to Europeans ; and the famous 
college which he founded at Baghdad became a school 
of great men, among whom al-Ghazali, the eminent 
theologian, deserves special mention. 

Under Alp Arslan the boundaries of the Seljuk 
Empire were extended. Eastward he subdued Herat, 
and later on Jand in Transoxiana ; he also successfully 
checked the ambitions of his brother Kaward, as already 
related. In Arabia he overcame the Fatimids and gained 
Mecca and Medina, thereby much augmenting his 
prestige. In a.h. 464 (1071) he defeated a vasdy 
superior Byzantine army in western Asia Minor and took 
prisoner the Emperor Diogenes Romanus. The story is 
told that when Romanus, who had fought heroically, was 
brought to Alp Arslan he was asked what treatment he 
expected. He replied either death or to be paraded 

^ So called from Kundur in the Turshiz district. 


throughout the Empire, as it was unlikely that he would 
be spared. Asked how he would have behaved had he 
won, he answered, " I would have beaten thee with many 
a stripe." Alp Arslan showed remarkable magnanimity ; 
for Romanus, after making a treaty and stipulating to 
pay a ransom, was set free. His subjects, however, 
refused to recognize him. In this campaign mention is 
made of a body of mercenary French and Normans, 
commanded by Ursel of Baliol, a kinsman — possibly an 
ancestor — of the Scottish kings. 

The last campaign of this warlike Seljuk was against 
Khwarazm and the Turks, and while the army was 
crossing the Oxus a certain prisoner was brought in 
who had held a fort in Khwarazm with much bravery. 
Condemned to be pegged out on the ground until he 
died, the fearless soldier cursed Alp Arslan for inflicting 
a death so degrading ; whereupon the monarch, waving 
his attendants aside, shot an arrow at him, but missed, 
and before the prisoner could be seized he mortally 
wounded the great Seljuk. So perished Alp Arslan in 
the zenith of his fame and manhood. He was buried 
at Merv with the following epitaph : 

Thou hast seen Alp Arslan's head in pride exalted to the sky ; 
Come to Merv, and see how lowly in the dust that head doth He ! 

Alp Arslan was tall, a noted archer, and had such long 
moustaches that they had to be tied up when he shot. 
His life was spent in fighting, and he gained the reputation 
of being fearless, generous, and religious. It is much to 
his credit that he realized the genius for administration 
of the Nizam-ul-Mulk, and gave him his entire confidence 
and a free hand. The result was that justice and order 
prevailed, learning was encouraged, and such prosperity 
returned to Persia that the Seljuk dynasty at its prime 
need not fear comparison with any of its predecessors. 

The Seljuk Empire at its Zenith under Malik Shah^ a.h. 
465-485 (1072-1092). — Jalal-u-Din, Abul Fath, Malik 
Shah had been proclaimed heir-apparent at Meshed before 
his father proceeded on his last expedition. He was only 
seventeen when he was suddenly called to assume the 


vast responsibilities of Empire, and his accession was by 
no means unchallenged. His uncle, Kaward, marched to 
Reij and at Karaj, to the south of Hamadan, a desperate 
battle was fought which lasted for three days and three 
nights before the pretender was defeated. Meanwhile 
Altigin, the Khan of Samarcand, had invaded the Empire, 
and in another quarter Ibrahim of Ghazna captured 
his uncle, Othman ; but Ibrahim was pursued and routed 
by the Amir Gumushtigin, whose servant, Anushtigin, was 
destined to found the dynasty of the Khwarazm Shahs or 
Kings of Khiva. Supported by the Nizam-ul-Mulk, 
Malik Shah weathered all these storms of state, together 
with the rebellion of a brother, and five years after his 
accession he was in a position to extend still farther the 
bounds of the Empire. His generals subdued the greater 
part of Syria and Egypt in the west, while* in the east 
they not only conquered Bokhara and Samarcand, but 
received tribute from the Prince of Kashgar, who was 
obliged to recognize Seljuk suzerainty on his coins. 

The internal prosperity of the Empire increased under 
the wise guidance of the Nizam-ul-Mulk. Among the 
stories related of the famous Vizier is one that illustrates 
both the extent of the Empire and his own efficiency. 
The Nizam-ul-Mulk, it is said, paid the boatmen on 
the Oxus by bills on Antioch, and the efficiency of his 
financial policy was proved by the fact that they were 
readily cashed. Science was fostered by the monarch, 
who, himself a man of culture, founded the observatory 
at Nishapur in which Omar Khayyam laboured with other 
scientists to compute the new era which Malik Shah 
inaugurated, and which was termed Jalali in his honour. 

Moreover, the dynasty maintained its virility. The 
Sultan was passionately fond of polo, so much so that he 
played a match at Baghdad the day after his arrival at 
the capital ; he was equally fond of shooting and kept 
a record of his bags of game. Malik Shah was seldom 
at rest, but among the cities in the Empire his favourite 
residence was Isfahan, which afterwards became the capital 
of Persia under the Safavi dynasty. There he constructed 
fine buildings and laid out sumptuous gardens. 


The Downfall of the Nizam-ul-Mulk, — The power and 
influence of the Great Vizier seemed to remain unimpaired, 
and when an old man he wrote his celebrated Sidsat Ndma^ 
or " Treatise on the Art of Government," which won high 
praise from his royal master. But nevertheless he 
fell, and Malik Shah, who resembled Haroun-al-Rashid 
in his good fortune, has also come down to us with a 
tarnished name for his dismissal of the Great Vizier, even 
although there was no such tragedy as accompanied the 
downfall of the Barmecides. 

It appears that complaint was made against a grand- 
son of the Nizam-ul-Mulk, and the aged Vizier, who had 
doubtless grown overbearing with years, returned an 
angry reply to his master's reproaches. The incident 
might have passed unnoticed but for the fact that Turkan 
Khatun,^ the favourite wife of Malik Shah, was hostile to 
the Vizier, and consequently he was dismissed. He was 
not put to death or imprisoned, but shortly after his 
downfall was assassinated hy^ifidai^ or devotee, who was 
believed to have been sent by the famous Hasan Sabbah. 
There is an old legend to the effect that the Nizam-ul- 
Mulk was at school at Nishapur with Omar Khayyam and 
Hasan Sabbah, and the three boys swore eternal friend- 
ship, agreeing that whichever of them succeeded in life 
should help the other two. ', The Nizam-ul-Mulk fulfilled 
his obligation in the case of Omar Khayyam, who refused 
the governorship of Nishapur but asked for a pension, 
which was granted. He also found a suitable post for 
Hasan Sabbah, but the latter intrigued to supplant his 
benefactor, and on the failure of his designs became the 
Nizam-ul-Mulk's enemy. This legend is too well known 
to be passed by, but disparities of age make its truth 

As in the case of the Barmecides, profound sympathy 
was felt for the fallen minister, and it was deepened by 
his tragic end. The exquisite lines of which the following 
is a translation are among the elegies in which his fate 
is commemorated : 

^ I.e. " The Turkish lady," a title, not a name. 


The Minister Nizam -ul-Mulk was a peerless pearl, which the 

All-merciful God esteemed as of great price, 
But, precious as it was, the age knew not its value, so, in jealousy. He 

replaced it in its shell. 

The 'Death of Malik Shah^ a.h. 485 (1092). — Malik 
Shah survived his faithful servant less than a month, 
dying at the height of his fame, after a short illness, 
before he was forty years of age. With him passed what 
may justly be termed the golden prime of the Seljuk 
dynasty ; for never within historical times had a vast 
empire been better governed than during the thirty years 
now concluded. 

The Assassins, — In the previous chapter some account 
has been given of the origin of the Ismailis and also of 
their immediate offshoots. The members of the sect, 
under the European name of Assassins, played a large 
part on the stage of the Near East and Iran during this 
period and the two succeeding centuries, and they became 
famous in Europe through the baleful activity of their 
Syrian branch. It is therefore desirable to give some 
account of their tenets and operations at this period. The 
political importance of the sect began with the foundation 
of the so-called Fatimid dynasty, which claimed descent 
from the Prophet's daughter, and the Ismailis are in 
consequence often referred to as Fatimi or Alawi (descend- 
ants of Ali). By their opponents they are termed Ismaili, 
Batini ('* Esoterics '*), Mulahida (" heretics "), this last 
word being the Mulehet of Marco Polo. 

The dynasty in question was brought into existence 
through a propaganda started in a.h. 260 (873) by a certain 
AbduUa bin Maymun al-Kaddah, an oculist of Ahwaz and 
a Persian by birth. This extraordinary man founded a 
secret society which was to bind together Arabs and 
Persians, Christians and Jews, and indeed all mankind, 
into a school which was to owe implicit obedience to him- 
self and to serve as a powerful instrument of his ambitions. 
As in the case of the Abbasid propaganda, dai or mission- 
aries spread the peculiar doctrines, which offered all things 
to aU men — a Mahdi to the Moslems, a Messiah to the 
Jews, philosophy to the wise, and liberty to the foolish. 


There was an inner doctrine for the fully initiated, which, 
as Browne puts it, was " philosophical and eclectic, borrow- 
ing much from old Iranian and Semitic systems and some- 
thing from Neo-PIatonist and Neo-Pythagorean ideas. It 
was dominated throughout by the mystic number Seven ; 
there were Seven Prophetic Periods . . . and each of 
these Seven great Prophets was succeeded by seven 
Imams." ^ 

The task of the dai was to arouse curiosity by asking 
questions such as : " Why did God create the Universe in 
Seven Days .f^ " "Why are there Seven Heavens, Seven 
Earths (or Climes), Seven Seas, and Seven Verses in the 
Opening Chapter of the Koran ^ " Among the more subtle 
questions were the following : " What, in reality, are the 
torments of hell .^^ How can it be true that the skins 
of the damned will be changed into a fresh skin, in order 
that this fresh skin, which has not participated in their 
sins, may be submitted to the tortures of hell 1 " After 
a convert had been won, he was induced to take an oath 
of allegiance to the dai as representing the Imam, and to 
pay the Imam's money. 

The Fatimid Dynasty^ a.h. 297-567 (909-1 171). — The 
founder of the Fatimid dynasty was the grandson of the 
oculist. Taking the name of Abu Mohamed ObayduUa, 
he conquered the larger portion of northern Africa and 
made Mahdiya, near modern Tunis, his capital. Sixty 
years later Egypt was added to the kingdom, and by the 
end of the tenth century a.d. the greater part of Syria, 
including Jerusalem, was in the hands of the Fatimid 
line, which bore sway until the famous Salah-u-Din, the 
Saladin of the Crusaders, overthrew their kingdom in 
A.H. 567 (1171). 

The most notorious personage of the dynasty thus 
founded was Hakim Biamrillah, or " He who rules by 
the order of God," who claimed divine honours and, 
possibly in imitation of the twelfth Imam, " disappeared " 
from the earth — or else was assassinated. It is of interest 
to note that his adherents, the Druzes, who derive their 
name from al-Duruzi, Hakim's Vizier, survive to the 

^ op. cit. vol. ii. p. 197. 


present day as a picturesque sect in the Lebanon and 

The Career of Hasan Sabbah, — Hasan Sabbah, whom 
we have met as an enemy of the Nizam-ul-Mulk in the 
reign of Malik Shah, was the son of a native of Kufa and 
was born at Kum. Like his father, he belonged to the 
" Sect of the Twelve " until he fell under the influence 
of the famous Nasir-i-Khusru, the "Proof* of Khorasan 
(who is referred to in Chapter LIV.), and other Fatimid 
dais. He was advised to proceed to Egypt, where he 
was received with honour ; returning thence to Persia, he 
extended the Fatimid propaganda to Yezd, Kerman, and 
Tabaristan, but he avoided the city of Rei, whose governor, 
a son-in-law of the Nizam-ul-Mulk, was under orders to 
seize him. 

His next step was to capture by an artifice the 
mountain fortress of Alamut in the Elburz range, close 
to the road which runs from Kazvin to Resht. This was 
accomplished in a.h. 483 (1090), and was followed by 
similar successes in other parts of Persia, more especially 
in the province of Kuhistan, where Tabas, Tun, Kain, 
Zuzan, Khur, and Khusf became centres of Ismaili power. 

" The Old Man of the Mountain^ — Hasan Sabbah, 
having established his position, broke off from the 
Ismailis of Egypt on the death of the Fatimite Caliph 
Mustansir in a.h. 487 (1094) by espousing the cause of 
Nizar, the unsuccessful claimant, whose brother, Mustali, 
succeeded to the throne of Cairo. 

Hasan Sabbah now reorganized the order, at the head 
of which he placed himself as the Grand Master, 
commonly termed the Shaykh-ul-Jabal, or " Chief of the 
Mountain." Inasmuch as " Shaykh " is frequently used 
as a term of respect to grey-beards, this title passed into 
Europe in the form "le Vieux" or "The Old Man of 
the Mountain." Next in the hierarchy came the Grand 
Priors of districts or sees, with their staff of dai. Below 
these superior grades were the " Companions,'' the 
" Adherents," and lastly the famous Fidais or " Devotees," 
whose fanatical disregard of life made the sect feared 
even by the most puissant monarchs. The Crusaders 


were brought into contact with the Syrian branch of the 
order, and Raymond, Count of Tripoli, in a. 0.1149, ^^^ 
Conrad of Montferrat, titular King of Jerusalem in a.d. 
1192, were among its more famous European victims. 
In A.D. 1272 the life of Prince Edward, afterwards 
Edward I. of England, was attempted at Acre, but accord- 
ing to tradition saved by his consort, who sucked the 


The Initiation of the Devotees, — A graphic account of 
the initiation of the fdais is given by Marco Polo, who, 
writing shortly after the capture of Alamut by Hulagu 
in A.D. 1252, says : ^ " The Old Man had caused a certain 
valley between two mountains to be enclosed, and had 
turned it into a garden, the largest and most beautiful 
that ever was seen, filled with every variety of fruit. 
And there were runnels flowing with wine and milk and 
honey and water ; and numbers of ladies and of the 
most beautiful damsels in the world. For the Old Man 
desired to make his people believe that this was actually 

" Now no man was allowed to enter the Garden save 
those whom he intended to be his ashishin. . . . 
Then he would introduce them into his garden, some 
four or six or ten at a time, having first made them drink 
a certain potion which cast them into a deep sleep, and 
then causing them to be lifted and carried in. When 
therefore they awoke and found themselves in a place so 
charming, they deemed that it was Paradise in very truth. 
... So when the Old Man would have any prince slain, 
he would say to a youth : ' Go thou and slay so and so ; 
and when thou returnest my Angels shall bear thee into 
Paradise.* " 

The potion was composed of cannabis indica^ or 
hemp, known as hashish, and this is undoubtedly the 
origin of the word " Assassin.** The Jidais rarely survived 
their victims, as they gloried in martyrdom and attempted 
to execute their mission in the most open and dramatic 
manner. Indeed, so certain of happiness after death were 
the followers of this sect that mothers wept if their sons 

^ Yule's Marco Poloj i. p. 139 (Cordier's edition). 


returned alive from a quest on which they had been sent 
by the " Shaykh of the Mountain/' 

Mahmud^ a.h. 485 (1092) ; Barkiyaruk^ a.h. 487 
(1094) ; Malik Shah IL^ a.h. 498 (1104) ; Mohamed^ 
A.H. 498-511 (1104-1117). — The death of Malik Shah 
unchained fierce rivalries. He had four sons, all of 
whom ultimately reigned, the latest and most illustrious 
being Sultan Sanjar, or " the Hawk." 

Turkan Khatun was at Baghdad with Mahmud, a child 
of four, at the time of her husband's decease, and im- 
mediately brought influence to bear upon the Caliph 
Muktadi to secure her son's accession. In this she 
succeeded, and a high official was sent on posthorses to 
Isfahan with orders to seize Barkiyaruk, Malik Shah's 
eldest son by another wife, Zobayda. But this attempt 
was forestalled by the sons of the Nizam-ulrMulk, and 
Barkiyaruk, a boy of twelve, was taken off to Rei, where 
he was crowned. Turkan Khatun had followed her 
emissary and gained possession of Isfahan, where she was 
soon attacked by the supporters of Barkiyaruk, who, 
however, were bought off. Shortly afterwards Turkan 
Khatun, by promise of marriage, induced Malik Ismail, 
brother of Zobayda, to attack the rival of her son ; but 
he was defeated, and Barkiyaruk was formally proclaimed 
at Baghdad two years after the death of Malik Shah. 
But this did not end the troubles ; for Tutush, a paternal 
uncle and the founder of the Syrian dynasty, rose in 
rebellion and captured the young Sultan, whom he 
brought to Isfahan and threw into prison. It had been 
decided to blind him, but his half-brother Mahmud 
suddenly died of smallpox, and Barkiyaruk was there- 
upon restored to the throne, owing partly, no doubt, to 
the disappearance from the scene of Turkan Khatun, 
who had been put to death a short time before. 

Barkiyaruk, who appears to have profited by his lessons 
in the scihool of adversity, defeated and killed Tutush in 
the following year, and another rebellious uncle was oppor- 
tunely removed by the hand of a page. In the course of 
these stirring events the life of Barkiyaruk also was at- 
tempted by one of the Ismaili devotees, but he escaped. 


In A.H. 489 (1096) Sanjar was appointed King of 
Khorasan, but in a.h. 492 (1099) ^^^ 7^^^ of the capture 
of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, Mohamed, another son 
of Malik Shah, rebelled, aided by the Muayyid-ul-Mulk, 
the ablest of the late Nizam-ul-Mulk's sons, whom 
Barkiyaruk had dismissed from office and converted into 
a mortal enemy. Small wonder was it that the invasion 
from Europe met with no response from Baghdad, for 
civil war was waged incessantly throughout the reign of 
the unfortunate Barkiyaruk. At last peace was made, 
but shortly afterwards Barkiyaruk died, and his brother 
Mohamed obtained the supreme power by seizing and 
blinding the heir-apparent, Malik Shah II., a boy of five. 
Mohamed now became the undisputed ruler of the heart 
of the Empire, and during his reign he waged incessant 
war on the Assassins. Upon his death his successor, 
Mahmud, a foolish boy of fourteen, attacked his powerful 
uncle, Sanjar, who defeated him at Sava, to the west of 
Kum. With magnanimity unusual in that period, Sanjar 
not only spared the boy*s eyes, but made him ruler of 
Irak and gave him his own daughter in marriage. 

During this period of fratricidal strife the Empire had 
broken up, Kerman, Syria, and Asia Minor all coming 
under independent dynasties, although to some extent 
they acknowledged the nominal suzerainty of the main 
line. Sanjar, however, had practically no concern with 
the provinces west of Iran, and the Seljuks of Rum, as 
Asia Minor was termed, were entirely independent and 
maintained their dynasty until the rise of the Osmanlis 
at the beginning of th:. fourteenth century. 

The Seljuks of Kerman, a.h. 433-583 (1041-1187). — 
The Seljuks of Kerman have been mentioned and the 
career of their founder, Malik Kaward, has been related ; 
but we must follow briefly the later fortunes of the 
dynasty, which ruled in south-east Persia for one hundred 
and forty-six years. 

After the execution of Malik Kaward his victorious 
nephew, Malik Shah, decided to extirpate the whole of 
his family, and with that end in view marched on Kerman 
and laid siege to it. But Kaward had left forty daughters, 


and when representations were made that it was not 
becoming for these to be handed over to the soldiery- 
Malik Shah pardoned the family. Kerman was left to 
Sultan Shahj son of Kaward, who had been partially blinded 
after the defeat of his father, but had escaped and returned 
thither. Turan Shah, the founder of the Masjid-i-Malik 
mosque of Kerman, was the next ruler, and his son, Iran 
Shah, was such a " monster " that he was put to death. 
In other words, he was suspected of favouring the Ismaili 
tenets. Under the just and efficient rule of his cousin, 
Arslan Shah, who reigned forty-one years, from a.h. 
494 to A.H. 536 ( 1 100- 1 141)5 the province attained great 
prosperity. If the chronicler is to be credited, caravans 
from Asia Minor, Khorasan, and Irak passed through 
it bound for Abyssinia, Zanzibar, and China. Arslan 
Shah was sovereign also of the neighbouring province 
of Pars, and had his deputy in Oman. Ultimately the 
dynasty was destroyed by the Ghuzz, like the main branch 
of the Seljuks. 

The Origin of the Crusades. — By way of conclusion to 
this chapter I propose to give a brief account of the 
Crusades,^ which for nearly two centuries constituted an 
attack by Christendom on Islam as represented by the 
Seljuk and Fatimid Empires ; although they affected the 
fortunes of Persia only indirectly, to pass them by with- 
out notice would leave this narrative incomplete. Pilgrim- 
ages to Jerusalem may be said to date from the famous 
journey of St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, whose 
alleged discovery of the true cross in a.d. 326 marked 
the beginning of pilgrim-travel ; and Beazley gives details 
of St. Silvia, of Jerome, and other very early pilgrims. 

Of special interest to us is the journey of St. Willibald, 
the West Saxon, the earliest recorded Englishman who 
visited the East. He and his companions started from 
Hamble Mouth, near Southampton, with the original in- 
tention of proceeding no farther than Rome, where they 
stayed for some time. In the spring of a.d. 722, having 
decided "to reach and gaze upon the walls of that delect- 

^ For this section I have consulted The Crusades in the East, by W. B. Stevenson, 
and Beazley's Daivn of Modern Geography. 



able and desirable city of Jerusalem," they travelled via 
Naples to Syracuse and Southern Greece, and so to 
Ephesus, whence they proceeded, mainly by land, ^ to 
Cyprus. Their port in Syria was Tortosa, and, walking 
inland to Emesa, they were thrown into prison " as 
strangers and unknown men." A friendly Spaniard, 
brother of a chamberlain to the Caliph, took up their 
case, and they were summoned to appear before Yezid II. 
On his asking whence they came, they replied, " From the 
western shore, where the sun sets, and we know not of 
any land beyond — nothing but water." So remote were 
the British Isles before the discovery of America ! The 
Caliph upon hearing this exclaimed, " Why punish them ? 
They have done no v/rong ; set them free." By this 
journey Willibald, almost forgotten to-day, was the fore- 
runner of a mighty movement of conquest. 

It will be remembered that in the account of the 
reign of Haroun-al-Rashid a reference was made to his 
exchange of embassies with Charlemagne. Indeed, no 
fewer than three missions visited the great Caliph, who 
despatched three return embassies to Europe.^ Again, 
during the reign of Mamun, Louis the Pious, son of 
Charlemagne, sent an embassy, which brought a response 
from Mamun six years later. The concessions obtained 
from Haroun gave the Franks a strong position in 
Jerusalem, but before the ninth century closed their 
quasi-protectorate, as Beazley aptly terms it, passed to 
the Byzantines. 

It is hard to realize how deep was the interest taken 
by Christendom in pilgrimages during the tenth century, 
and from what remote countries the pilgrims came. It is 
especially remarkable that in a.d. 987 two Icelanders 
appear on the scene, first-fruits of the conversion of the 
Norsemen with all its far-reaching consequences. In the 
eleventh century pilgrimages became common, even 
women taking part in them, and the interest of Christendom 
grew continually deeper. Suddenly, in a.d. ioio, the 
mad Fatimite Hakim Biamrillah, who has already been 
mentioned, destroyed the buildings of the Holy Sepulchre. 

^ Daivn of Geography, vol. ii. p. i20. 


Some ten years later they were rebuilt, but Christendom 
had meanwhile been stirred to its depths, and from that 
time the crusades became inevitable, although eighty years 
were to elapse before the movement gained sufficient 
strength for action. 

The First Crusade^ a.d. 109 5- 109 9. — Perhaps the 
first reply to the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre was 
given in the island of Sardinia, which was wrested by the 
Pisans from Islam in 1016. In 1060 the Norman con- 
quest of Sicily from the Arabs, which took thirty years 
to accomplish, began, and this may to some extent be 
regarded as a crusade. In a.d. 1095 Pope Urban II. 
delivered a memorable address at Clermont, teUing his 
hearers how the cries from threatened Constantinople and 
oppressed Jerusalem were ringing in his ears, and that it 
would take two months to traverse the lands* which the 
"accursed Persian race''^ had won from the Empire of 
the East. The effect was instantaneous on minds already 
prepared, and cries of Deus le volt^ Deus le volt^ " God 
wills it, God wills it," went up from the mighty host, 
which was now moved against Islam as it had never been 
moved before. Crosses were distributed and Christendom, 
stirred by wandering preachers such as Peter the Hermit 
who carried the theme of Urban's sermon far and wide, 
prepared for the Crusades. 

The Defeat of the First Army by the Seljuks, — As might 
be expected, the first raw levies which marched across 
Europe, massacring the Jews and generally robbing and 
pillaging, reached Constantinople in very small numbers. 
The Emperor Alexius advised them to await the arrival 
of the organized armies ; in the meanwhile, dreading 
their lawlessness, he transported them to Asia and sent 
them supplies by sea. The German section of these 
Crusaders made a raid towards Nicaea on the Sea of 
Marmora, but they were surrounded and captured by 
Kilij-Arslan Daud, the reigning Seljuk of Rum ; the 
same Prince also surprised and cut to pieces the main 
body of the undisciplined mob, with the exception of a 

^ The appeal of the Byzantine Emperor for armed help was actually due to 
conquests by the Seljulc Turks, here erroneously termed Persians. It was intiended to 
use the western troops to recover Asia Minor for Byzantium. 


remnant which escaped into a fort and was rescued by- 
troops from Constantinople. 

The Capture of Nicaea and of Antioch by the Crusaders, 
— The next effort was much better organized, men of 
higher rank and position, such as Raymond of Toulouse 
and Duke Robert of Normandy, taking part in it. The 
army avoided the -Mediterranean Sea which was in 
Moslem hands, and marching by various routes united 
outside the walls of Constantinople. Crossing into Asia 
Minor, the vanguard attacked Nicaea, and was in turn 
assaulted by Kilij-Arslan, who probably expected another 
encounter with a mob. But these Crusaders were a very 
different force, and in this, their first battle, they won a 
complete victory. Nicaea surrendered in the end to 
Alexius, and the crusading army marched across the heart 
of Asia Minor towards Syria. But it was no military 
promenade ; for at Dorylaeum, two or three stages to the 
south-east of Nicaea, they were again fiercely attacked, 
and with some diflSculty beat off the enemy. Asia Minor 
had been devastated by the Turkish hordes, and the 
Crusaders suffered terribly from lack of water and 
supplies, but at last they descended into Syria, and in 
October a.d. 1097 besieged Antioch, which was captured 
after extraordinary vicissitudes of fortune. 

The Storming of Jerusalem^ a.h. 492 (1099). — It is of 
interest to note that the Crusaders had opened negotia- 
tions in advance with the Fatimid Caliph, who sent a 
return embassy to the camp at Antioch. Jerusalem was 
in his possession, and he apparently refused any concession 
except that he would admit three hundred unarmed 
pilgrims to worship at the Holy Sepulchre. This 
offer was rejected with scorn, and in a.h. 492 (1099) 
Jerusalem was stormed, when the deplorable fanaticism 
of Christendom was vented on the Moslem and Jewish 
inhabitants, who were slain in thousands. News of the 
capture of the city, which was sacred in Islam as the scene 
of the Prophet's heavenly flight and as containing the 
mosque of Omar, reached Baghdad, and after it came 
crowds of refugees who clamoured for war against the 
infidel. But, as we have already seen, the Seljuks were 


at that time fighting to the death among themselves, and 
in spite of tumults at Baghdad, where the Great Mosque 
was stormed, no action was taken either by the Seljuks 
or by the Fatimids, and the Crusaders were allowed 
to organize their conquests in peace. Thus in a halo of 
glory ended the first crusade, which constituted a sign 
that Christendom was rallying and reviving. As Beazley 
says : "The crusades are the central expression of this 
revival, which, though defeated in some of its immediate 
objects, was entirely successful in kindling a spirit of 
patriotism, of practical religious fervour, and of boundless 
enterprise, whereby our Western World finally attained 
to the discovery, conquest, colonisation, or trade-dominion 
of the best portions of the earth." -^ 

^ op. cit, vol. ii. p. i. 

Alp Arslan. 



They adore the wind and live in the desert : they eat no bread and drink no 
wine, but endure a diet of raw meat and, being destitute of noses, breathe only 
through two small holes. — Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela. 

Sultan Sanjar at the Height of his Fame, — Sultan Sanjar 
is famous in history not only for his power and success, 
which gained him the reputation of being invincible, but 
also for his sudden and tragic fall, which involved that of 
his dynasty. According to native chroniclers, during the 
forty years of his rule as King of Khorasan, Sanjar made 
nineteen conquests. After he had attained the position 
of Great Seljuk by the defeat of his nephew, his successes 
continued, and in a. h. 524 ( 11 30) he invaded Mavaranahr,^ 
or Transoxiana, in order to reduce Ahmad Khan, who 
had ceased to pay tribute. He besieged Samarcand and 
took Ahmad Khan prisoner, but subsequently restored 
him to power. Six years later Bahram Shah, of the 
Ghaznavid dynasty, rebelled, but soon tendered his 
submission ; in a.h. 535 (i 140) Samarcand again revolted 
and for six months endured a siege by Sanjar, who when 
he captured it displayed unusual clemency towards its 
inhabitants. To the north his campaigns against the 
rising power of Khwarazm, or Khiva, during the earlier 
years of his reign kept that state in check. 

Mohamed Ibrahim mentions in his history that 
Sanjar, who had designs on the Kerman province, 

^ Literally " Beyond the River." 


remarked to the envoy of Arslan Shah that he had heard 
there was a district in Kerman where the narcissus 
bloomed. " True, O Sultan," was the reply, " but there 
are sharp thorns also.*' It is not recorded that Sanjar made 
any attack on the province, and the chronicler evidently 
believes the Great Seljuk took this remark as a warning 
that he would be opposed if he attempted an invasion. On 
the other hand he was accepted as suzerain by the Kerman 
branch of the dynasty. 

An Episode of the Assassins, — In the previous chapter I 
have given some account of the rise of the baleful power 
of the assassins, and its continuance, in spite of the long 
list of their victims, is a proof of the unsatisfactory 
condition of the Seljuk Empire. Barkiyaruk, during 
whose reign they consolidated their position, was himself 
accused of being in sympathy with their ^tenets and, 
perhaps as a proof of his orthodoxy, ordered a massacre 
of the sect, one of many which were instituted by way of 
reprisal. As already mentioned, Iran Shah, the Seljuk 
prince of Kerman, was also suspected of adherence to the 
Ismaili doctrines. It is difficult to conceive a more dia- 
bolical state of affairs than one which caused all men of 
position and especially monarchs to go constantly in fear 
for their lives, and sowed the deepest mistrust between all 
classes. Nor did capture end the assassin's power for evil, 
as for instance after the assassination of the Fakhr-ul-Mulk, 
son of the Nizam-ul-Mulk ; for the devotee, being inter- 
rogated by Sultan Sanjar, denounced several prominent 
officers of the Court, who, although probably innocent, 
were in consequence executed. 

A terrible instance of their almost incredible methods 
was that of ibn Attash,^ who won thousands of converts 
at Isfahan. Numbers of people were at that time dis- 
appearing in a most inexplicable manner and a panic 
prevailed. The mystery was solved through the instru- 
mentality of a beggar-woman who, hearing groans pro- 
ceeding from a house, suspected foul play and refused to 
enter when pressed to do so. She raised an alarm, and 
the crowd, breaking into the building, found four or five 

^ Browne's Literary History^ vol. ii. p. 314. 


hundred miserable victims, most of whom were crucified, 
and some still alive. These unhappy creatures had been 
lured to their doom by a blind man, who used to stand 
at the end of the lane leading to his house crying out, 
" May God pardon him who will take the hand of this 
poor blind man and lead him to the door of his dwelling 
in this lane ! " The vengeance taken on the owner of 
the house and his accomplices was swift ; and afterwards 
ibn Attash himself was paraded through Isfahan and 
crucified, arrows being shot at him to increase his 
sufferings. If ever an agonising punishment is justifiable, 
that of ibn Attash was well deserved. Yet, owing to the 
death of Sultan Mohamed in a.d. iii8, these accursed 
heretics were not extirpated, but on the contrary gained 
possession of fortresses in Syria and in every part of 

It is related that Sanjar intended to attack Alamut, 
and had marched several stages towards it when one 
morning, on waking up, he found a dagger stuck into the 
ground near his bed. Attached to it was a paper with 
the following written menace : " Sultan Sanjar, beware ! 
Had not thy character been respected, the hand which 
stuck this dagger into the hard ground could with greater 
ease have struck it into thy soft bosom.** Apparently 
the threat had the desired result, for the Great Seljuk 
abandoned his undertaking. 

The Ghorid Dynasty, a.h, 543-612 (1148-1215). — 
The Ghorid dynasty which held sway in the mountains 
between Herat and Ghazna calls for a short notice. 
Mahmud reduced the principality, and its princes continued 
to rule under the Ghaznavid monarchs, with whom they 
had intermarried. Bahram Shah, the reigning Ghaznavid, 
executed a member of the Ghorid family, whose death 
was avenged by the capture of Ghazna in a.h. 543 (i 148) 
and the expulsion of Bahram Shah. This prince, how- 
ever, recovered his capital by means of a conspiracy, and 
treated Sayf-u-Din, brother of the Prince, with extreme 
cruelty and insult, parading him through the city and 
then crucifying him. Six years later Ala-u-Din, the 
reigning Ghorid Prince, exacted the fullest retribution, 


and gained the awful title of Jahan Suz^ or "World 
Burner/' by the ferocity with which he reduced to a heap 
of ashes the beautiful buildings erected by Mahmud and 
his successors. Yet, as we read in the Chahar Makala^ 
" he bought with gold the poems written in their praise 
and placed them in his library/' 

Ala-u-Din was afterwards a prisoner in the hands of 
Sultan Sanjar, and when he died in a.h. 556 (1161) the 
Ghuzz were ravaging Afghanistan, and both the Ghorid 
and Ghaznavid governments for a time disappeared. 
The Ghorid dynasty, however, revived, and for a while 
held part of the province of Khorasan ; it will be heard of 
again in this connexion. I 

The Rise of the Shahs of Khwarazm. — The Shahs of 
Khwarazm or Khiva were descended from a favourite 
cup-bearer of Malik Shah named Anushtigjn, who has 
already been mentioned in connexion with that monarch's 
accession. His successor was Kutb-u-Din Mohamed, 
whose state the Kara Khitai Turks invaded during his 
reign. He sent a large army to oppose them, but was 
defeated and had to pay tribute. This monarch died in 
A.H. 490 (1097). -His son Atsiz remained for many 
years at the court of Sanjar, where he acted as Chief Cup- 
bearer, but in A.H. 533 (1138) he obtained permission to 
proceed to Khiva, where he prompdy raised a rebellion. 
Sanjar, however, easily defeated his vassal, who fled, but 
shortly afterwards recovered his kingdom. 

The Kara Khitai Dynasty. — The founder of the Kara 
Khitai, or " Black Cathayan," dynasty of Chinese Turkestan 
was a certain princely adventurer, named Yelui Tashi, a 
near relation of the Cathayan Emperor. He had aided 
him in his struggles against the Nuchens, who eventually 
founded the Kin dynasty on the ruins of the Cathayan 
Empire,^ but, realizing that the position of the Emperor was 
hopeless, Yelui Tashi marched- off in a.d. i 123 to seek his 
fortunes to the north-west of Shensi. There all classes 
rallied to his standard in recognition of his illustrious 
descent, and with a large force he marched into Turkestan, 

^ The Cathayan dynasty and its fall are dealt with in A Thousand Tears of the Tartars^ 
Boole VII., by E. H. Parker. 


which he annexed, together with Kashgar, Yarkand, and 
Khotan, and so founded a Buddhist kingdom in the 
Tarim basin. He subsequently invaded Khwarazm, as 
related in the previous section, and imposed an annual 
tribute of thirty thousand pieces of gold. Two years 
later, having by that time extended his Empire to the 
confines of Siberia, Yelui Tashi assumed the high title of 
Gur Khan, or " Universal Lord.'' This great conqueror 
died in a.d. 1136, as he was preparing to attack the 
usurping Nuchens. His immediate successors were 
minors, and their regents were their female relations ; 
but the tribe for some generations to come maintained its 
warlike ascendancy over the kingdoms of Central Asia. 

The Defeat of Sultan Sanjar by the Kara Khitai^ a.h. 536 
(1141). — Atsiz was a man of resource, and, not content 
with recovering his kingdom after his expulsion by Sanjar, 
was able to avenge himself by encouraging the Kara Khitai 
to invade the territories of his overlord. A great battle was 
fought in the valley of Dirgham beyond the Oxus, and 
Sanjar encountered the first defeat in his hitherto successful 
career. In this disaster, which was held to be the most 
crushing ever experienced by Moslems in Central Asia, 
the Seljuk losses were one hundred thousand men. Its 
result was that the Kara Khitai temporarily occupied 
Merv and Nishapur, and Atsiz returned to Khiva as an 
independent sovereign. Two years later Sanjar had re- 
covered sufficient strength to invade Khiva ; but, meeting 
with little success, he made peace. Atsiz, who died about 
a year before his great enemy, left to his son a kingdom 
which stretched as far east as the province of Jand on the 
Jaxartes. Sanjar's last success was the defeat and capture 
of the famous " World Burner " of Ghor, who had invaded 

The Capture of Sultan Sanjar by the Ghuzz^ a.h. 548 
(i 153). — As we have already had occasion to remark, one 
of the most potent causes of the overthrow of powerful 
dynasties has been found in the movements of nomadic 
tribes which, in their flight from a strong foe, have fought 
desperately to secure new grazing grounds in a strange 
country. The Kara Khitai, when they won their empire, 


left the sedentary population unmolested, but drove the 
Ghuzz tribes from their pastures. Crossing the Oxus, 
the dispossessed nomads obtained permission from Sultan 
Sanjar to settle in the neighbourhood of Balkh, agreeing to 
supply 24,000 sheep annually as a tax for their 40,000 
families. A dispute as to the quality of the sheep excited 
a rising, which the governor of Balkh tried in vain to 
quell. Upon hearing this, in a.h. 548 (1153) Sanjar 
marched in person with an army of one hundred thousand 
men to assert his authority. The Ghuzz in alarm offered to 
submit and pay a heavy fine, but Sanjar would not listen 
to their overtures, and the nomads fighting desperately 
for their lives defeated the Seljuk army and took the 
Sultan prisoner. 

The Atrocities committed by the Ghuzz. — The victors, 
ferocious and intoxicated with success, attacked Merv 
Shahijan, or " Merv the soul of the Shah,*' as it was 
generally termed, which they captured with all the amassed 
wealth of the Seljuks. Not content with plunder, they 
tortured the wretched inhabitants, their favourite method 
being to ram dust down the victim's throat with a stick, 
the mixture being grimly described as " Ghuzz coffee." 
From Merv they marched on Nishapur, where " the slain 
could not be seen for the blood wherein they lay." Their 
terrible ravages have been depicted by Anwari, whose 
poem was translated by William Kirkpatrick in a.d. 1785. 
Two of the stanzas ran : 

Waft, gentle gale, oh waft to Samarcand, 

When next thou visitest that blissful land, 

The plaint of Khorasania plunged in woe : 

Bear to Turanians King our piteous scroll. 

Whose opening breathes forth all the anguished soul, 

And close denotes what all the tortur'd know. 

• • * • • ■ • 

The mosque no more admits the pious race ; 
Constrain'd, they yield to beasts the holy place, 
A stable now, where dome nor porch is found : 
Nor can the savage foe proclaim his reign, 
For Khorasania's criers all are slain. 
And all her pulpits levelled with the ground. 

Their Ravages in the Kerman Province, — In the pro- 


vince of Kerman, too, the Ghuzz made great havoc. 
They harried in the neighbourhood of the capital, and 
thence proceeded to the fertile districts of Jiruft and 
Narmashir, which they laid waste. In a.h. 581 (1185) 
Malik Dinar arrived from Khorasan, joined the Ghuzz, 
and with their aid seized the province. Some years later 
he proceeded to Hormuz, where the Governor gave him 
money and horses. He also extracted money from Keis, 
then an emporium of great importance, which had been 
visited by Benjamin of Tudela only a few years previously. 
Upon the death of Malik Dinar the Ghuzz in the Kerman 
province were attacked by the Shabancara^ or Ik tribe, 
who dealt them some heavy blows, and they were finally 
crushed by Atabeg Sad bin Zangi. 

The Escape and Death of Sultan Sanjar^ a.h. 552 
(11 57). — Sanjar remained four years a prisoner with the 
Ghuzz, treated apparently with respect but closely 
guarded ; tradition says that he sat on a throne by day 
but was placed in a cage at night. He contrived at last 
to escape when on a hunting expedition, and it is said that 
when he saw the ruined state of Merv he ceased to wish 
for life, and died heart-broken in the seventy-third year 
of his age. He was buried in a splendid mausoleum 
erected during his lifetime, which in its present half- 
ruined state struck me as strangely impressive, recalling 
as it did an illustrious puissant monarch, the last Great 
Seljuk, who ended a glorious reign as a homeless and 
heart-broken fugitive. 

His Character, — All historians unite in praising the 
valour, justice, magnanimity, and kindness of Sultan 
Sanjar, who was so universally beloved that his name was 
read in the mosques for a full year after his death — an 
unprecedented compliment. An interesting sidelight is 
thrown on his character by his enmity to the poet Rashid- 
u-Din, better known as Watwat, or " the Swallow," from 
his diminutive stature. When Sanjar was besieging 
Atsiz in the fortress of Hazar Asp,^ or " One Thousand 

^ This tribe occupied a district to the east of Shiraz, with Ik, to the north-west of 
Darab, as their capital. Marco Polo gives Soncara, evidently a corruption of this word, 
as the " Seventh Kingdom " of Persia. 

2 Situated between Khiva and the left bank of the Oxus. 

' — . 











Horses,** he instructed Anwari to compose a stanza cal- 
culated to annoy his enemy and ordered it to be shot into 
the town. The lines — somewhat colourless in a translation 
— ran thus : 

O King ! all the dominion of the earth is accounted thine ; 
By fortune and good luck the world is thine acquisition : 
Take Hazar Asp to-day with a single assault, 

And to-morrow Khwarazm and a hundred thousand horses shall 
be thine ! 

The stanza was duly received, and the following reply, 
inspired by Watwat, was shot back : 

If thine enemy, O King, were Knight Rustam himself, 
He could not carry off from thy Hazar Asp a single ass ! 

Stung by the retort, Sanjar gave orders for Watwat 
to be kidnapped, and when some time afterv^ards he was 
caught, directed that he should be cut into seven pieces, 
a sentence which does little to support the Sultan's reputa- 
tion for magnanimity. However, a courtier said, " O King ! 
I have a request to prefer ; Watwat is a feeble little bird 
and cannot bear to be divided into seven pieces : order 
him, then, to be merely cut in two ! " Sanjar laughed 
and the poet was pardoned. 

The Revival of the Caliphate, — During the heyday of 
the Seljuk dynasty the Caliphs were mere puppets, but 
Mustarshid, who was Caliph for seventeen years from 
A.H. 512 (11 18), took advantage of the intestine wars 
then raging to aim at independence. He achieved his 
object for a while, but on being attacked by Zengi, the 
famous adversary of the Crusaders, he was forced to 
submit. In the end he was assassinated, as was also his 
son and successor Rashid, but under Muktafi the inde- 
pendence of the Caliphate became more marked. Nasir, 
who succeeded to the Caliphate in a.h. 575 (1180), 
opened up relations with Khwarazm, and instigated 
Tekish to attack Toghril, the Seljuk ruler of Irak. The 
attack succeeded, Toghril was slain, and his head was 
sent to Baghdad. The victor, who handed over some 
Persian provinces to the Caliph, was recognized by Nasir 
as the supreme ruler of the East. But these friendly 


relations did not endure, and when Ala-u-Din Mohamed 
endeavoured to depose the Caliph, as mentioned below, 
the latter appealed to the far-ofF Chengiz Khan. In other 
words, the head of Islam invited a horde of Mongol 
pagans to attack a Moslem state. 

The Kkwarazm Dynasty at its Zenith. — The death of 
Sultan Sanjar was the signal for the break-up of his 
dominions. Il-Arslan succeeded his father Atsiz on the 
throne of Khiva, and, like him, suffered defeat at the hands 
of the Kara Khitai — in a.h. 568 ( 1 172). In the following 
year he died, and civil war broke out between his two sons, 
Tekish and Sultan Shah Mahmud, in which the latter 
was aided by Muayyid, the Governor of Nishapur. 
Tekish inflicted a crushing defeat on his brother, who 
took refuge with the Ghorids, and Muayyid was captured 
and cut in two. In a.h. 588 (1192) Tekish killed the 
Kara Khitai receiver of tribute, and in retaliation Sultan 
Shah's claims were supported by the incensed Gur Khan. 
In order to protect his kingdom, Tekish caused the 
Oxus valley to be flooded, and the campaign produced no 
definite result. Sultan Shah, however, was helped in a 
descent on Sarakhs, which he captured, and his expulsion 
of the Ghuzz from this district led to their migration 
to the Kerman province. Sultan Shah afterwards took 
Nishapur, and until his death in a.h. 589 (1192) was 
a thorn in the side of his elder brother. Upon being 
freed from this permanent source of danger, Tekish in 
A.H. 590 (1194) overthrew Toghril III., the last Seljuk 
to rule in Persia, and added the greater part of Western 
Persia to his empire. 

In A.H. 596 (1200) Ala-u-Din Mohamed, whose 
career resembles that of Sanjar, succeeded to the throne 
and extended his empire in every direction with such 
success that in a few years Balkh to the north and Kerman 
to the south acknowledged his suzerainty. He now 
deemed himself strong enough to challenge his Kara Khitai 
overlords, the murder of a receiver of tribute once again 
constituting the act of defiance. He invaded the territory 
of the Kara Khitai, and in his first campaign suffered a 
severe defeat. In the following year, however, in conjunc- 


tion with Othman of Samarcand and aided by the treachery 
of Guchlukj as detailed in Chapter LV., he retrieved his 
lost laurels and was able to annex the western provinces 
of the Kara Khitai Empire. In a.h. 607 (12 10), the year 
following this successful campaign, he captured Samarcand 
and, killing Othman who had accepted his suzerainty but 
had rebelled, made it his capital. 

But this did not complete the conquests of Mohamed, 
for he annexed the Indian provinces of the Ghorid dynasty, 
and finally absorbed the two provinces of Ghor and 
Ghazna. In the archives of Ghazna letters were found 
from the Caliph Nasir, urging the Ghorid Princes to 
unite with the Kara Khitai against Khwarazm. Incensed 
at this proof of hostility, in a.h. 612 (121 6) Mohamed 
summoned a council at Khiva, which deposed Nasir as 
an assassin and enemy of the faith, and nominated a 
descendant of Ali to the Caliphate. Thus, fortified with 
legal documents, he advanced into Persia, captured Sad, 
the Atabeg of Fars, and put to flight the Atabeg of 
Azerbaijan. Mohamed was met by an envoy of the 
Caliph, whom he treated with contempt, and from 
Hamadan he was marching against Baghdad, which lay 
at his mercy, when an extraordinary fall of snow accom- 
panied by extreme cold caused him to abandon the 
enterprise, and Baghdad was saved. 

The Atabegs. — To complete the survey of the dynasties 
into which Persia had again been broken up, some 
account must be given of the Atabegs or "Regents." 
This was a title conferred upon the slaves, or their 
descendants, who acted as " father-lords " — for that is the 
exact meaning of the word — to their young masters, and 
in many cases gained independence and founded dynasties. 
Salghar, from whom the Fars dynasty was descended, was 
the chief of a Turkoman band which joined Toghril Beg, 
and was taken into his service. The member of the 
family who actually founded the dynasty was Sunkur, 
who gained possession of Fars in a.h. 543 (1148) and 
maintained his independence against the Seljuks. He 
was an excellent ruler and was devoted to Shiraz, his 
capital. The two next Atabegs call for no particular 



notice, and we come to Sad, who crushed the accursed 
Ghuzz and annexed the Kerman province in a.h. 600 

A short time after this event the unhappy province was 
invaded by an army from Khiva, which laid siege to the 
capital without effect. In the end terms were arranged, 
and the Khivans remained in possession. Sad also made 
a successful raid on Isfahan. He became tributary to 
Ala-u-Din, whose army he met near Rei when the Shah 
of Khwarazm was marching towards Baghdad. The 
Atabeg, with only seven hundred men, promptly attacked 
and defeated a large body of Khivan troops ; but he fell 
off his horse and was taken prisoner. He excused him- 
self for his mad act by stating that he was not aware that 
the army was that of Khiva, and, having agreed to pay 
an annual tribute to Khwarazm and to give his daughter 
to Jalal-u-Din, the heir-apparent, he was dismissed with 
honour. In a.h. 623 (1226) Sad was succeeded by 
Abubekr, famous as the patron of the poet Sadi, who had 
taken his title from Sad's name. Abubekr showed much 
foresight in conciliating Chengiz Khan, by which act of 
policy he maintained his own dynasty and saved Fars 
from the appalling calamities that befell other parts of 

These Atabegs of Fars were the most famous, but 
there was also a dynasty of Atabegs of Azerbaijan, which 
ruled from a.h. 531 (1136) to a.h. 622 (1225). This 
family, however, never attained to more than local 
importance. A Luristan dynasty was also established by 
means of a force sent from Fars, and held sway from a.h. 
543 (1148) to A.H. 740 (1329). Its reigning prince 
made terms with the Mongols, and, as will be seen in 
Chapter LVIL, Abaga owed his life to the courage of a 
member of the family. 

The End of a Great Period. — In history it is not always 
easy to discover the true dividing lines, but the Mongol 
invasion which swept across Asia is unmistakable, for it 
inflicted a blow from which Moslem civilization never 
entirely recovered. Not only were entire populations 
blotted out of existence, but the cataclysm culminated in 


the sack of Baghdad and the murder of the Caliph, after 
which the Caliphate, the spiritual centre of Islam, ceased 
to exist. This marks the end of what was in many ways 
a great period. 

Nothing is more interesting to one deeply interested 
in the welfare of Persia than to watch how in the Abbasid 
period Persian superiority in everything but the bravery 
born of fanaticism reasserted itself, how when the arts of 
peace flourished, Persian ascendancy was re-established, 
and how later on Persian dynasties once more began to 
reign in Iran. 

Little can be gleaned of the condition of the masses 
at this period, but it is reasonable to suppose that it 
depended almost entirely on the strength or weakness, 
the justice or the injustice, of the monarch and his 
governors. There is no doubt that, as a ruie, there was 
terrible oppression, for this is the normal state in the East 
under an Asiatic government. At the same time it does 
not altogether follow that the life of the masses was un- 
happy because they were misgoverned. In many cases, 
especially where villages escape assessment or can bribe 
an assessor, taxes are extremely light, and the Persian 
always loves the excitement attending the uncertain 
incidence of the maliat^ or revenue. 


From the "Diwan" of Nasir-i-Khusru. 
[Tabriz edition in the British Museum {Pers. 798).] 



Bear before me to Khorasan, Zephyr, a kindly word, 

To its Scholars and men of learning and not to the witless herd, 

And having faithfully carried the message I bid thee bear, 

Bring me news of their doings, and tell me how they fare. 

I, who was once as the cypress, now upon Fortune's wheel 

Am broken and bent, you may tell them ; for thus doth Fortune deal, 

Let not her specious promise you to destruction lure : 

Ne'er was her covenant faithful ; ne'er was her pact secure. 

The Dtnvan of Nasir-i-Khusru. 

The Birth of Persian Literature. — It is important once 
again to draw attention to the fact that, although for 
many generations after the triumph of Islam Arabic was 
the only vehicle of thought and literature, much of this 
literature was the work of Persian intellects. As the 
years passed and Persia recovered from the Arab invasion, 
her native tongue began to reassert its claims, just as, 
some centuries later in England, the despised language of 
the conquered Saxons began to be used in preference to 
the French of the Norman conquerors. 

The birth of a post -Islamic Persian literature^ is 
believed to date from the era of the SafFarid dynasty, and 
constitutes one of its strongest claims to affectionate 
remembrance. Dolatshah, the author of the famous 
Lives of the Poets^ gives a charming anecdote in which 

^ For this chapter I have especially consulted Professor Browne'? work. I have also 
found Fenian Literature by Claud Field of use. 



the little son of Yakub bin Lais is represented as lisping 
the first Persian verse, and this, mere legend though it 
may be, is of considerable significance as showing popular 
belief on the subject. It is reasonable to suppose that 
Persian poetry may have existed in Sasanian times, and 
legends tell of Barbad, court poet of Khusru Parviz, but 
as already stated in Chapter XLI. no traces of it are to be 
found ; for all practical purposes such poetry may be said 
to have come into being rather more than a millennium 
ago, under the semi -independent rulers who governed 
various fragments of the old Persian Empire. 

During this period of one thousand years the changes 
in the Persian language have been astonishingly small. 
In English literature it is not every one who can enjoy 
Chaucer, because there is much that is archaic and un- 
familiar in the language, but Persian poetry has come 
down to us fully developed, and is perhaps easier to 
understand in its early natural simplicity than in the 
more ornate artificiality which became, and has remained, 
the standard of taste. 

The Persian is naturally of a poetical temperament, 
and in pleasing contrast to the latest songs of the music- 
hall heard in England- is the classical poetry frequently 
recited even by muleteers, while the educated classes can 
quote freely from the great writers. 

One of Browne's favourite authors, Nizami al-Arudi 
of Samarcand, gives a curious definition of poetry which 
is worth quoting. " Poetry," he says, " is that art whereby 
the poet arranges imaginary propositions and adapts the 
deductions with the result that he can make a little thing 
appear great and a great thing small, or cause good to 
appear in the garb of evil and evil in the garb of good. 
By acting on the imagination he excites the faculties of 
anger and concupiscence in such a way that by his 
suggestion men's temperaments become affected with 
exultation or depression ; whereby he conduces to the 
accomplishment of great things in the order of the 

In the present chapter I make no attempt to condense 
into a few pages the classical age of Persian literature, and 


I propose only to touch very briefly on a few of the stars 
in the literary firmament — which are cited in chrono- 
logical order rather than in groups — without making any 
pretensions to deep knowledge of the subject, which could 
be acquired only by a lifetime of study.^ 

Rudagi, — The first great poet of Persia after the advent 
of Islam was Rudagi, who flourished in the first half of 
the tenth century ; among the most famous of his poems 
is one which he improvised at the request of the army, to 
induce his royal patron to quit Herat for the capital. It 
runs, in Browne's felicitous translation, as follows : 

The sands of Oxus, toilsome though they be, 
Beneath my feet were soft as silk to me. 
Glad at the friend's return, the Oxus deep 
Up to our girths in laughing waves shall leap. 
Long live Bukhara ! Be thou of good cheer ! 
Joyous tov^ards thee hasteth our Amir ! 
The Moon's the Prince, Bukhara is the sky ; 
O Sky, the Moon shall light thee by and by ! 
Bukhara is the Mead, the Cypress he ; 
Receive at last, O Mead, thy Cypress tree ! 

On hearing these lines, the Samanid Amir Nasr 
descended from his throne, mounted the sentry-horse and 
started off in such haste towards his capital that his riding 
boots had to be carried after him ! Few ballads can have 
had immediate success of such a practical kind. 

Al-Biruni. — As I have shown in Chapter LI I., Persia 
towards the close of the tenth century of our era was 
divided up among various dynasties, all of which were 
patrons of literature, and more especially of poets. Of sur- 
passing splendour was the brilliant galaxy that adorned the 
court of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna, who not only attracted 
men of letters to his court, but used all his power with 
weaker princes to secure their leading literary stars. A 
classical instance is his request to Mamun, Prince of 
Khwarazm,^ to send al-Biruni and Avicenna to Ghazna. 
The former went willingly, but Avicenna refused to go 
and took refuge at the court of Kabus. 

^ Persian poetry falls generally under one of the following headings : i. Kasida^ 
elegiac or satirical poems. 2. Rubai (pi. Rubaiat), quatrain (our epigram). 3. Masnavij 
double-rhymed poem, the vehicle of epic and didactic poetry. 

^ He was a member of the first and less famous dynasty. 


Al-Biruni^ was badly treated by Mahmud, who 
behaved at times like a spoilt child, but he remained 
at Ghazna and after the death of his royal patron published 
the second of his great works, the Indica, The Chronology 
of Ancient Nations had been published thirty years earlier 
and dedicated to Kabus. Of al-Biruni it may be said that 
in addition to his vast learning he possessed a fine critical 
faculty and a sense of proportion, which, combined with 
his devotion to the truth, make his writings invaluable 
to the student ; they almost seem to be the work of some 
deeply-read modern European. 

Avicenna, — Abu Ali bin Sina was born near Bokhara 
in A.D. 980, and, as already related, won the favour of the 
Samanid Prince Noh at the early age of seventeen by his 
skill as a physician. When the Samanid dynasty fell he 
proceeded to the court of Khwarazm, but was forced to 
quit it, as Mahmud insisted on his presenting himself at 
Ghazna. Unwilling to do this, he fled by way of Tus to 
Gurgan, where he was honourably received by Kabus. 
Upon the deposition of the Ziyarid prince he finally pro- 
ceeded to the court of the Buwayhid, Ala-u-Dola, at 
Isfahan, where he died at the age of fifty- seven. 

Avicenna was among the very greatest of the many 
illustrious sons of Iran, and by carrying on and 
developing the science of Hippocrates and Galen and 
the philosophy of Aristotle and Plato he exercised an 
influence on the best brains of both the East and the 
West, not only during his lifetime but for many genera- 
tions after his death ; his books, translated into Latin, 
remained the standard works of Europe from the twelfth 
to the seventeenth century. 

Firdausi. — Supreme among the poets at the court of 
Mahmud of Ghazna was Abul Kasim, famous under his 
title Firdausi, the author of the great national epic the 
Shahnama. According to the Chahar Makala^ he was a 
dihgan or cultivator^ of the village of Bazh in the 

1 Browne in his History of Persian Literature^ vol. i. p. 97, tells a delightful story 
of al-£lruni's adventures at Ghazna. 

2 Browne translates this word " a small squire," but this is apparently incorrect. To 
quote from a report on agriculture written by me : " The unit of the plough includes two 
men, one of whom is known as the Salar and the other as the Dihgan. The duty of the 


Tabaran district of Tus.^ This village I have been 
fortunate enough to identify with the modern Paz or 
Faz, situated twelve miles to the north of Meshed and 
three or four miles south of Rizan, which is mentioned 
below. The poet completed his great epic after a quarter 
of a century of work in a.d. 999, and ten years later took 
it to the court of Mahmud. Owing to intrigues and 
imputations of lack of orthodoxy, the beggarly sum of 
twenty thousand dirhems, or less than ;£400, was all that 
Firdausi was granted, instead of a gold dinar or half guinea 
for every couplet, as he was led to expect. In his bitter 
disappointment he divided the money between a bathman 
and a sherbet-seller, and then fled, in the first place to 
Herat and finally to Tabaristan. By way of revenge, 
he castigated Mahmud in a satire which in Browne's 
translation runs : 

Long years this Shahnama I toiled to complete, 

That the King might award me some recompense meet, 

But naught save a heart wrung with grief and despair 

Did I get from those promises empty as air ! 

Had the sire of the King been some Prince of renown, 

My forehead had surely been graced by a crown ! 

Were his mother a lady of high pedigree, 

In silver and gold had I stood to the knee ! 

But, being by birth, not a prince but a boor. 

The praise of the noble he could not endure ! 

The years passed, and Mahmud was in India, where 
he encamped close to a strong fortress held by a rebellious 
chief to whom he had despatched an envoy. He remarked 
to his Vizier, " I wonder what reply the rebel will have 
given." The Vizier quoted : 

And should the reply with my wish not accord, 
Then Afrasiab's field, and the mace, and the sword ! 

" Whose verse is that," inquired Mahmud, " for he 
must have the heart of a man ? " The Vizier replied that it 

latter is to plough the land and to sow the seed, and of the former to water the land. 
Both are on an equality when the harvest is divided, but the Salar is, generally speaking, 
the senior partner." My Persian friends assure me that Firdausi was a man of quite 
humble origin and not originally a landowner, even on a small scale. 

^ Vide my "Historical Notes on Khurasan," J.R.A.S.^ October 19 lo. The map 
attached to the plan of Tus (Tabaran) shows the various places referred to and gives the 
sites of the "twin-cities" of Tabaran and Nokan, w^hich I have identified. 

fft" 'i>B^iSfe/ 

Fr\>i!t a fh(<to^ra/'h cy :Uc Aut'u^i . 



was written by Firdausi, whereupon the Sultan confessed 
his deep regret that he had disappointed the poet and 
promised that he would send him something. Accordingly, 
upon the arrival of Mahmud at Ghazna, sixty thousand 
dinars' worth of indigo was despatched to Tabaran on the 
royal camels, with the monarch's apologies. But, as the 
train of camels bearing the royal bounty entered Tabaran 
by the Rudbar Gate, the corpse of Firdausi was borne forth 
from the Rizan Gate. The daughter of the poet refused 
the tardy gift, and, as Jami wrote five centuries later : 

Gone is the greatness of Mahmud, departed his glory, 

And shrunk to " He knew not the worth of Firdausi^'' his story. 

I have quoted from the Shahnama more than once, 
but the great epic entirely loses its sonorous majesty in 
a translation. It contains all the legends as. well as all 
the history of Persia known to its author, who drew on 
Sasanian works and was faithful to his authorities.^ The 
result is a poem which appeals to Persians as nothing else 
does in their language, which makes them glow with 
pride at the valour of their forbears and unites them 
in their intense pride of race. Listening to its lines 
declaimed by some fiery tribesman who can neither read 
nor write, I have realized that on such occasions the 
Persian lays bare his very soul. 

Browne frankly confesses that he cannot appreciate 
the Shahnama^ but the late Professor Cowell wrote the 
following noble eulogy : " Augustus said that he found 
Rome of brick, and left it marble ; and Firdausi found 
his country almost without a literature, and has left her 
a poem that all succeeding poets could only imitate and 
never surpass, and which, indeed, can rival them all even 
in their peculiar styles, and perhaps stands as alone in 
Asia as Homer's epics in Europe. . . . His versification 
is exquisitely melodious, and never interrupted by harsh 
forms of construction ; and the poem runs on from be- 
ginning to end, like a river, in an unbroken current of 
harmony. Verse after verse ripples on the ear and washes 
up its tribute of rhyme ; and we stand, as it were, on the 

1 Vide Chapter XLI. p. 506. 


shore, and gaze with wonder into the world that lies buried 
beneath — a world of feeling and thought and action that 
has passed away from earth's memory for ever, whilst its 
palaces and heroes are dimly seen mirrored below, as in 
the enchanted lake of Arabian story.'* Happy is Firdausi 
to have inspired such a splendid encomium ! 

The Siasat-Nama, — In Chapter LIL some account has 
been given of the Nizam -ul-Mulk as statesman and 
administrator, and it was mentioned that he was also the 
author of the Siasat-Nama^ or " Treatise on the Art of 
Government." This great work comprises fifty chapters, 
treating of royal duties, royal prerogatives, and adminis- 
tration. It is written in simple language, and as it 
embodies the views of the greatest of Persian administra- 
tors, who adorns his narrative with numerous historical 
anecdotes, it is one of the most valuable Persian prose 
works in existence. 

Nasir-i-Khusru. — Reference has also been made to 
Nasir-i-Khusru, in the capacity of Ismaili propagandist. 
But he was poet and traveller as well. The record of his 
adventures is contained in a work termed Safar-Nama^ or 
" Treatise of Travel," which gives in simple language the 
details of his journey from Merv to Nishapur, Tabriz, and 
across Asia Minor to Aleppo. He then performed the 
pilgrimage to Mecca by way of Jerusalem, and finally 
reached Cairo in a.h. 439 (1047). I^ ^gyP^ ^^ ^^^ 
initiated into the esoteric doctrines of the Ismailis, and 
was awarded the title of Hujjat^ or " Proof," in Khorasan. 
He gives a most interesting account of the prosperity, 
good order, and justice prevailing under the Fatimite 
Caliphs in Egypt, whence after a stay of two or three 
years he returned to Khorasan. On this journey he 
followed a southern route, visiting Isfahan, Nain, Tabas, 
Tun and Sarakhs ; of these, Tabas and Tun afterwards 
became well-known Ismaili centres. Of his poetry, the 
Diwan is famous, its main theme being a strong insistence 
on the Ismaili view of allegorical interpretation. As so 
many of the great men of the period hailed from Khorasan, 
I have quoted a stanza from his poem addressed to them, 
by way of heading to this chapter. 


Omar Khayyam. — Omar Khayyam, or the ''Tent 
Maker/' is the best known of Persian poets in England 
and America, owing to the genius of FitzGerald,^ indeed 
it has been calculated that more than ninety per cent of 
the ladies who enter the Oriental Library at the British 
Museum ask some question about the bard of Nishapur. 
But if his name is brought up among Persians they will 
reply, " Omar Khayyam was a philosopher and an 
astronomer." In other words, he is famous in Persia 
as a philosopher and for his labours in connexion with 
the Jalali era, referred to in Chapter LIL, and his reputa- 
tion does not in any way rest on his quatrains.^ 

As already mentioned, he was a friend and, according 
to one account, school-fellow of the Nizam-ul-Mulk, who 
granted him a pension. The oldest account we possess 
of him is in the Chahar Makala of Nizam i-al-Arudi, in 
the section, it is to be noted, which treats of astrologers 
and astronomers. Here is given the original story of 
the poet's saying : " My grave will be in a spot where 
the trees will shed their blossoms on me twice a year." 
Nizami states that in a.h. 530 (1135) ^^ visited the 
tomb of the deceased Omar, " seeing that he had the 
claim of a master on me . . . and his tomb lay at the foot 
of a garden-wall, over which pear-trees and peach-trees 
thrust their heads, and on his grave had fallen so many 
flower-leaves that his dust was hidden beneath the flowers." 
This disposes of the mistaken idea that Omar was buried 
beneath a rose-bush. On the dry Iranian plateau, where 
nature is scanty in her gifts, the truly beautiful peach 
and pear and other fruit blossoms play a far larger part 
than in rainy England, where vegetation is so rich and 

I have twice passed through Nishapur and on each 

1 Cowell wrote : "FitzGerald's translation is so infinitely finer than the original 
that the value of the latter is such mainly as attaches to Chaucer's or Shakespeare's 
prototypes." This may seem to be an exaggeration, but in my humble opinion it is 

2 sir Mortimer Durand once visited the late Shah Nasir-u-Din to proffer a request 
from the Omar Khayyam Club that the tomb of the poet should be repaired. The 
Shah was astonished and said, " Do you mean to tell me that there is a club connected 
with Omar Khayyam ? Why, he has been dead for a thousand years. We have had a 

great many better poets in Persia than Omar Khayyam, and indeed I myself " and 

then he stopped. 


occasion visited the poet's tomb, which, as the illustration 
shows, is situated in an open wing of a shrine erected by- 
Shah Abbas in memory of Mohamed Mahruk, a forgotten 
relation of the Imam Riza. The Shrine is set in a formal 
Persian garden, divided into four plots by cobbled paths, 
which is by no means lacking in charm. Fruit-trees are 
grown in it, and their blossoms still fall on the tomb of 
the poet, which is cased with white plaster, but bears no 
stone or inscription. 

As to his famous quatrains, each of which, it is to be 
remembered, is a complete unit, there is no doubt that 
Omar wrote quatrains, but some of those attributed to 
him are claimed to have been written by other poets, 
Avicenna, for example, being the author of at least one 
of the best known. When all is said, the fact remains 
that Omar Khayyam, as interpreted by the genius of 
FitzGerald, has touched a chord in our Anglo-Saxon 
prosaic nature, and has thereby helped to bridge the deep 
gulf which separates the dreaming East from the material 

The Kabus Nama, — No Persian work with which I 
am acquainted is more interesting or amusing to read than 
the book of moral precepts and rules of life composed in 
A.D. 1082 by Kei-Kaus, the grandson of Kabus, the Ziyarid 
prince. It deals in a charming and witty fashion with 
duty towards parents, age and youth, hunting, polo, 
marriage, education, the sciences of medicine, astrology 
and mathematics ; indeed, few subjects are ignored and 
we gain a real insight into the Oriental point of view, 
everything being analysed in the most simple language 
by a writer who anticipated the Polonius of Shakespeare 
and also the Badminton Library. Incidentally, some fifty 
anecdotes, many of historical value, enrich the work.^ 

Al-Ghazali. — Khorasan was a rich nursery of genius, 
and among its great men Al-Ghazali, the famous theologian 
of Tus, ranks high. To quote Browne : " He did more 
than any one else to bring to an end the reign of philo- 
sophy in Islam, and to set up in its stead a devotional 

1 Its importance is indicated by the fact that it is being translated into English by 
E. Edwards for the Gibb Memorial Series. 


^ O 
^ — 




mysticism which is at once the highest expression and the 
clearest limitation of the orthodox Mohamedan doctrine/' 
This eminent religious leader was born inA.H. 450 (1058) 
and attracted the notice of the Nizam -ul-Mulk, who 
appointed him a Professor in his Baghdad college, to 
which I have already referred. After some years of 
absence he returned to Nishapur, and finally to his home 
at Tus, where he died at the age of fifty-one, venerated 
by all and bearing the honourable title of Hujjat-ul-lslam^ 
or "The Proof of Islam." It is of special interest to 
note that in 19 12 the authorities of the British Museum 
acquired what is believed to be a unique copy of his work 
on the doctrines of the Ismailis and other esoteric and 
unorthodox sects, which should prove to be of great value 
to the student. 

Muizzi. — We have now come to the later Seljuk 
period, which Browne terms " the period of Sanjar," 
whose writers, both in prose and in verse, are as brilliant 
as those of the preceding period ; indeed, it is difficult to 
decide which are the most worthy of mention. The poet- 
laureate of Sanjar was Amir Muizzi, and I quote a few 
lines from one of his odes, if only to show how early the 
artificial poem superseded the easy and to me charming 
simplicity of Rudagi. 

Her face were a moon, if o'er the moon could a cloud of musk blow 

free ; 
And her stature a cypress, if cypresses bore flowers of anemone. 
For if to the crown of the cypress-tree could anemone clusters cling. 
Perchance it might be accounted right such musk o'er the moon to 

For her rounded chin and her curved tress, alack ! her lovers all 
Lend bended backs for her polo-sticks and a heart for the polo ball ! 
Yet if hearts should ache through the witchery of the Harut-spells of 

her eye, 
Her rubies twain are ever fain to offer the remedy. 

To quote Browne : " Thus in the four couplets we 
have the familiar comparison of a beautiful face to a moon, 
of a mass of black and fragrant hair to musk, of a tall and 
graceful figure to the cypress, of red cheeks to the anemone, 
of the chin and heart respectively to a ball, of the back 
of one bent down by age or sorrow to a polo-stick, of the 


lips to rubies, and of witching eyes to Harut, the fallen 
angel, who teaches magic to such as seek him in the pit 
where he is imprisoned at Babylon." This is admirably 
put, and it may incidentally explain why the European 
does not as a rule care for, or admire. Eastern poetry. 

Nizami-al-Arudi. — Frequent references have been 
made to the Chahar Makala^ or " Four Discourses,** of 
Nizami, which is a mine of useful information and throws 
a clear light on the life of the time at the courts of 
Central Asia. The " Prosodist," as his title may be 
translated, to avoid confusion with Nizami of Ganja, 
was at Samarcand, at Nishapur, where he frequented the 
society of Omar Khayyam, and at Tus, where he visited 
the tomb of Firdausi. But his post was that of Court- 
poet to the Ghorid Kings, and in the " Four Discourses " 
he mentions the "World Burner" as still living — a fact 
that helps to fix the date of his famous work, which, on 
Browne^s authority, is about a.d. i 155. 

Anwari and Khakani. — We now come to a class of 
panegyrists, the greatest of whom is Anwari, the Poet- 
laureate and Astrologer of Sultan Sanjar. As Browne 
writes : " These were poets by profession, artificers in 
words and sounds, literary craftsmen of consummate skill 
and ingenuity, and for this very reason they will not bear 
translation, because their beauty is a beauty of words 
rather than of thought." ^ 

The taunting verse shot into Hazar Asp by order of 
Sanjar has already been quoted, and also two stanzas of 
the fine poem on the devastation wrought by the savage, 
Ghuzz, which prove that the poet could write something 
better than mere formal panegyrics. Khakani was a 
native of Ganja, the modern Elizabetpol in the Caucasus, 
and was of low extraction. Having been taken up and 
taught by an old poet, he became a brilliant star in the 
literary firmament, notorious for the difficulty of his 
verse, which is also extremely artificial. His poems were 
mainly panegyrics, but one inspired by the ruins of the 
Tak'i-Kisra, which I have quoted in Chapter XLL, strikes 
a loftier note. 

^ Lecture delivered before the Persia Society in 191 2. 
















' T 

— ^ 












t— * 




1— 1 









Nizami, — A very difFerent class of poet, and one 
whose work it is easy for the European to appreciate, is 
Nizami, who was also a native of Ganja but who avoided 
courts. He wrote five romantic poems, famous as the 
" Five Treasuries." These works enjoy an almost un- 
rivalled popularity to-day, especially Khusru and Shirin 
and Layla and Majnun^ scenes from which have constantly 
inspired artists. From the former poem I have already 
given a description of polo as played by Khusru and his 
lovely spouse,-^ but the central theme of the romance is the 
love of Farhad for Shirin, who was promised to him if he 
cut through Mount Bisitun. The gifted engineer had 
all but accomplished the impossible, when by Khusru's 
orders false news was conveyed to him of the death of 
the beloved one, and he expressed his woe in the follow- 
ing lines : 

Alas the wasted labour of my youth ! 
Alas the hope which vain hath proved in truth ! 
I tunnelled mountain walls : behold my prize ! 
My labour's wasted : here the hardship lies ! 

• • • • • 

The world is void of sun and moon for me : 
My garden lacks its box and willow tree. 
For the last time my beacon-light hath shone ; 
Not Shirin, but the sun from me is gone ! 

■ • ■ • • 

Beyond Death's portals Shirin shall I greet, 
So with one leap I hasten Death to meet ! 
Thus to the world his mournful tale he cried, 
For Shirin kissed the ground and kissing died. 

Attar, — The last poet of the pre-Mongol period is 
Farid-u-Din, known as Attar, the dealer in otto of roses, 
or more generally "the druggist." This remarkable 
man was born at Nishapur about the middle of the 
twelfth century, and apparently fell a victim to the 
Mongols when his native city was sacked. The story 
runs that he was seized by a Mongol who was about to 
kill him, but was prevented by an offer of one thousand 
dirhems for the old man. The poet, resolved on death, 
persuaded his captor to await a better offer, which he did. 

1 Ten Thousand Miles, etc., p. 337. 


Another Mongol, in scorn of the old man, offered a bag 
of fodder. " That is my full value, sell me,*' said Attar. 
The furious Mongol, realizing the deception, immediately- 
killed him. Attar composed numerous works, the best 
known of which is the Pand-nama^ or *'Book of Counsels." 
His fame, however, chiefly rests on the celebrated poem 
Mantik-ut-Tayr^ or "The Parliament of the Birds," an 
allegory in which birds of different species unite in a 
quest for the Simurgh, the mythical eagle referred to in 
Chapter XII., the birds typifying Sufi pilgrims and the 
Simurgh "the Truth." In the end the birds, purified by 
trials, find that 

Their ancient deeds and undeeds were cleansed away and annihilated 

from their bosoms. 
The Sun of Propinquity shone forth from them ; the souls of all of 

them were illuminated by its rays. 
Through the reflection of the faces of these thirty birds (si-murgh) of 

the world they then beheld the countenance of the Simurgh. 
When they looked, that was the Simurgh : without doubt that 

Simurgh was those thirty birds (si murgh). 
All were bewildered with amazement, not knowing whether they were 

this or that. 

A Criticism, — In concluding this brief notice of some 
of the great writers of the period, I would urge that the 
effect of the Persian climate and scenery on its poetry has 
not been sufficiently considered by European authorities. 
In the country round Nishapur, which is typical of most 
other parts of the Iranian plateau, there is a high, naked 
range to the north, the source of the streams of water on 
which the irrigated crops depend. The wide, flat plain 
is destitute of trees, which are grown only in walled 
enclosures, where they also depend on irrigation. The 
gardens of Persia, far renowned though they may be, 
consisted, and still consist, of orchards and poplar groves, 
with a few paths planted with roses loved by the nightin- 
gale and with jasmines. They would not be thought 
beautiful in Europe, because of the unsightly irrigation 
channels and the lack of flowers ; but to the traveller 
crossing the sun-blistered plains a combination of shade 
and running water with nightingales is delightful indeed, 
and contrasting it with the stony waste outside he forgets 


to be critical. It may be objected that in the Caspian 
provinces there are forests and a luxuriant vegetation 
with masses of violets, primroses, and snowdrops, but 
all Persians have ever hated the damp climate with its 
malarious marshes and heavy air, and they can see none 
of its beauties. In proof of this we find both Tavernier 
and Chardin recording that " the air is so unwholesome 
that the People cry of him that is sent to Command here. 
Has he robb'd, stolen, or murdered, that the King sends 
him to Guilan ? " 

Practically aU the poets mentioned in this chapter 
were natives of Khorasan or Central Asia, and were thus 
accustomed to and affected by its steppe vegetation, its 
rocky mountain ranges, and its bare plains. On the 
other hand, they had the advantage of living in one of 
the finest and most delightful climates in the* world, with 
abundance of brilliant sunshine, an absence of extremes 
of heat and cold, and, above all, a most stimulating atmos- 
phere, which has helped to endow the gifted sons of Iran 
with the marked personality that has been their- heritage 
throughout the ages. 




They came, they uprooted, they burned. 
They slew, they carried off, they departed. 


The Awful Nature of the Mongol Invasion, — The history 
of Persia as forming part of the Eurasian continent has 
from one point of view consisted of a record of wave after 
wave of invasion by tribes whose conquest usually was 
attended with much human suffering. But no invasion 
in historical times can compare in its accumulated horrors 
or in its far-reaching consequences with that of the 
Mongols,^ which swept across the entire width of Asia 
annihilating populations and civilizations, and from which 
Eastern Europe did not escape. Russia was conquered and 
annexed ; Silesia and Moravia were ravaged after the defeat 
of the Poles at the battle of Lignitz in a.d. 1241, and 
another Mongol army under Batu laid waste the plains 
of Hungary and defeated its monarch at Pesth. Europe 
apparently lay at the mercy of the invaders ; but the death 
of Ogotay, together with the mountainous nature of Central 
Europe and its remoteness, saved the tender growth of its 
civilization. On the other hand, neither Central Asia nor 
Persia, nor to some extent Russia, has as yet recovered 

^ The special authorities for this period are D'Ohsson's Histoire des Mongols and 
Sir Henry Howorth's History of the Mongols. The former especially is based on trust- 
worthy Moslem authorities, among them being Ibn-ul-Athir and the Tarikh-i-yahan" 
Gusha^ or " History of the World-Conqueror," by Ala-u-Din, better known as Juwayni, 
the Secretary of Hulagu Khan. I have also consulted A History of the Mongols of 
Central Asia^ by Ney Elias and Denison Ross. 



from this human avalanche of seven centuries ago ; and 
until quite recently in some of the churches in Eastern 
Europe the litany included, " From the fury of the 
Mongols, good Lord, deliver us." 

D'Ohsson summarizes the facts in the following 
burning words : 

Les conquetes des Mongols chang^rent la face d*Asie. De 
grands empires s'ecroulent; d*anciennes dynasties p^rissent ; des 
nations disparaissent, d'autres sont presque an6anties ; partout, sur 
les traces des Mongols, on ne voit que ruines et ossements humains. 
Surpassant en cruaut6 les peuples les plus barbares, ils 6gorgent de 
sangfroid, dans les pays conquis, hommes, femmes et enfants ; ils 
incendient les villes et les villages, d^truisent les moissons, trans- 
forment en deserts des contrdes florissantes ; et cependant ils ne 
sont animus ni par haine ni par la vengeance -, a peine connaissent-ils 
de nom les peuples qu'ils exterminent. 

The Origin of the Mongols, — In Chapter XXiX. refer- 
ence has been made to the Hiung-Nu or Huns who 
fought with and drove westwards the Yue-chi about 
200 B.C. ; it is believed by the best authorities that the 
Mongols were descended from the Huns and that the 
descendants of the Yue-chi were known as the Uighurs. 
This is, however, ancient history and we may more 
profitably turn to contemporary writers for an appreciation 
of the new " Scourge of God." 

The Mongols, or as they were more generally termed 
in Europe the Tartars,^ were divided by the Chinese 
writers into three classes, known respectively as the 
White, Black, and Wild Tartars, whose civilization de- 
creased with the remoteness of their habitat from the 
humanizing influence of the sedentary population of 
China. So far as history, as opposed to legend, is 
concerned, the Mongols were one of the clans which 
ranged the country to the north of the Gobi Desert 

^ The correct form is Ta-ta. The sound, however, so closely resembled the 
classical Tartarus that we find Matthew Paris, the Emperor Frederic II., Innocent IV., 
and St. Louis all playing on the word, the Emperor ending off his letter to Henry III. 
of England with ad sua Tartara Tartari detrudentur. Consequently the form Tartar 
was generally adopted. The Mongols themselves, who derive their name from mong 
meaning "bold," averred that the Tartars were a tribe whom they had conquered, and 
this view is adopted by D'Ohsson. The form " Moghul " has been applied to the 
Mongols by Moslem writers and is frequently used, more especially with reference to the 
great dynasty founded in India. 



and to the south of Lake Baikal. They spent their lives, 
like other nomads, in breeding cattle and horses and in 
raiding, and owed allegiance to the dynasty of northern 
China, which, albeit derived from similar stock, regarded 
these wild tribesmen with contempt. That they stood 
very low in the scale of civilization is shown by the words 
of Ibn-ul-Athir, one of D'Ohsson's chief authorities : 
"As for their religion, they worship the sun when it 
arises, and regard nothing as unlawful, for they eat all 
beasts, even dogs, pigs, and the like." 

In the main Carpini and Rubruquis,-^ whose missions 
will be referred to later on, corroborate this testimony to 
their evil traits, but give credit for splendid discipline, 
bravery, and endurance : the Mongols' archery and horse- 
manship, too, were superb. Their arrogance after their 
conquests, like that of the Arabs, was unbounded. We 
read in Russian history that the princes of the country 
were bound to attend the Mongol Khans whenever 
ordered, and among other humiliations were forced to 
lick up any drops which fell from the Khan's cup as he 
drank ! Their filthiness was abominable, washing being 
unknown, and it is related of Chengiz that he would not 
allow the word " dirty" to be used. When travelling in 
Ladakh some twenty-five years ago, I was informed that 
a rare sun-bath on the roof for the children was the only 
form of cleansing the body practised there. In Central 
Asia and Persia, where the Mongols are all Moslems, 
they are still a dirty race, but the evil is mitigated by the 
strictness of the rules of Islam on the subject of ablution. 

The true Mongols have almond-shaped eyes ; they are 
beardless and generally short in stature, but a virile race, 
and, though clumsy-looking on foot, are born riders. 
At the same time, in the struggle for wealth they rarely suc- 
ceed at the present day against the more astute Persians, 
and in Khorasan, at any rate, they occupy much the same 
position as the Italians and Eastern Europeans in America. 

Tissugay, the Father of Chengiz Khan. — The ancestors 
of Chengiz Khan are lost in the mists of legend, but 

1 Carpini and Rubruquis, edited by Dr. Raymond Beazley ; and The Journey of Friar 
Wtlham ofRubruck, edited by W. W. RockliiU (both for the Hakluyt Society). 










(From Pien-i-teen. ) 


of his immediate forbears D'Ohsson gives some details ' 
which show that they were tributary to the Nuchens, the 
Conquerors of the Cathayan line, who are also known 
as the Kin dynasty. At the hands of the Nuchens a 
member of the family of Chengiz, in punishment for the 
act of a relation who had killed some of the royal officers, 
was nailed to a wooden ass, a terrible punishment reserved 
for rebel nomads. This deed called for vengeance, and 
we first hear of Yissugay in the successful raid which 
followed, when its leader, Khubilay, defeated a Kin army 
and carried off rich booty. Khubilay' s brother, Bartam 
Bahadur,^ had four sons, of whom the third, Yissugay 
Bahadur, was elected chief of the tribe. He was evidently 
an active and brave chief who subjugated the neighbouring 
clans and made them fight his battles. His growing 
power alarmed the Kin dynasty, which in pursuance of 
its usual policy incited the Buyr-Nur Tartars to attack 
Yissugay, and the latter died fighting against what was 
probably an unexpected onslaught. 

The Rise of Chengiz Khan^ a.d. i 175-1206. — In a.d. 
1 1 62 a son was born to Yissugay, whom he named 
Temuchin in memory of a chief whom he had slain, and 
on his death, in a.d. 1175, this boy of thirteen succeeded 
to the headship of the tribe. As might be supposed, the 
little confederacy broke up, refusing to obey so young a 
lad, and Temuchin, after suffering many hardships and 
privations, was on one occasion taken prisoner. But he 
was born under a lucky star, and gained victory after 
victory until his reputation rivalled that of his father. 
The Buyr-Nurs after falling on Yissugay had invaded 
China, and the Kin Emperor induced the powerful tribe 
of Keraits, who were Nestorian Christians, to attack them. 
Toghril, the chief of the Keraits, who was known as Wang^ 
or " King," and who called himself Wang-Khan, was no 
less a personage than the fabulous monarch so familiar 
to medieval Europe as Prester John.^ 

^ Bahadur signifies *' brave," and it is an interesting fact that Khan Bahadur^ one of 
the titles awarded to-day by the Viceroy of India, is derived from this source. 

2 This was one of the questions which deeply interested Sir Henry Yule } vidt his 
Marco Poloy vol. i. p. 231 (Cordier edition). A section of the Karai — Karait or Kerait is 
simply a plural form — inhabit the district of Turbat-i-Haydari to the south of Meshed. 


This prince was under great obligations to Yissugay, 
who had protected him when a refugee and had aided him 
to expel a usurping uncle and to regain the chieftainship. 
Consequendy, when many years later he was again a 
refugee, having been driven out by his brother, who had 
the support of the Naiman — also a Christian tribe — he 
bethought himself of Temuchin, and was welcomed by 
the young chieftain. In a.d. i 194 we read that Temuchin 
led a contingent against the Buyr-Nurs under the Kin 
emperor, who commanded in person, and covered himself 
with glory in fighting and crushing the family foes. For 
some years after this campaign Temuchin fought with the 
tribes on every side and gradually organized his power. 
In A.D. 1202 he engaged in a trial of strength with his 
former ally Toghril, who at first defeated him ; but in 
A.D. 1203 he crushed the Keraits, who were thenceforth 
his subjects. 

Some time after this important success Tai Yang 
Khan, King of the Naimans, attempted to win over Ala 
Kush-Tekin, chief of the Onguts or White Tartars, 
with the design of uniting in an attack on Temuchin 
before he became too powerful. But the Ongut chief in- 
formed the intended victim of the plot and he promptly 
attacked the Naimans, whom he crushed. Their king 
was killed, but his son, Guchluk, escaped and fled west- 
wards. Among the prisoners taken by Temuchin was 
Tatatungo, the Uighur Chancellor of Tai Yang, whom 
the conqueror took into his service. Tradition attributes 
the rudiments of civilization acquired by the Mongols to 
this remarkable man, who taught the sons of Chengiz 
the Uighur tongue and the art of writing, and who main- 
tained his influence under Ogotay, the son and successor 
of Chengiz. In a.d. 1206, so powerful had Temuchin 
become, that he was in a position to assemble a Kuriltay^ 
or " Diet of the Nobles," and at this historical assemblage 
he assumed the title of Chengiz Khan,^ or " The Perfect 

The Downfall of the Kara Khitai Dynasty, — Guchluk, 

^ This name varies in spelling from the Cambynskan of Chaucer to the Zingis of 














(From Pien-i-teen. ) 


the son of the Naiman chief, who escaped after the defeat 
of his father, suffered great privations and led a wander- 
ing life, but finally reached the court of the Gur Khan. 
He was treated most kindly and given a daughter of the 
monarch in marriage, and upon this occasion adopted the 
Buddhist religion. No sooner had he estabhshed his 
position and collected his scattered tribesmen than he 
entered into a plot with Mohamed Shah of Khwarazm 
and with Othman, Prince of Samarcand, to overthrow 
his benefactor. Although in the first engagement he 
was defeated, the forces of Khwarazm and Samarcand 
carried all before them, with the result that in a.h. 608 
(12 1 2) the Gur Khan was a prisoner in the hands of 
Guchluk. In his stead the traitor ruled in a kingdom 
which was restricted to the Tarim basin, with its three 
cities of Kashgar, Yarkand, and Khotan. The empire of 
Mohamed was extended eastwards into the heart of 
Turkestan, and after he had captured and killed his 
erstwhile ally Othman, Samarcand became his capital. 

The Mongol Invasion of Turkestan^ a.h. 615 (1218). 
— It is beyond the scope of this work to deal with the 
three successful campaigns waged by Chenglz against the 
Kin dynasty, from whom he seized many of their fairest 
provinces ; but it is important to note that it was during 
these campaigns that the rude Mongols learned the 
necessity for a siege-train, which they afterwards employed 
with deadly effect. The Great Conqueror subsequently 
crushed the Merkites, a neighbouring tribe, and in a.d. 
12 1 8 made his first movement westwards by despatching 
an army of twenty thousand men to attack Guchluk. 
The latter fled without attempting any defence, but was 
overtaken and put to death. 

The Outbreak of Hostilities with Khwarazm, — The 
relations of Chengiz Khan with the monarch of Khwarazm 
were at first friendly. The Mongol chieftain despatched 
an embassy to Mohamed with gifts and a message 
expressing the hope that the two rulers would live at 
peace with one another, and declaring that he would look 
upon Mohamed as his most beloved son. The Khivan 
monarch, after making enquiries from one of the envoys, 


who was a native of Khiva, as to the armies of Chengiz, 
dismissed the three ambassadors with a friendly reply, 
although he realized that the invitation to be regarded as 
a " son " constituted a veiled demand to recognize Mongol 

Not long afterwards Chengiz Khan bought the stock 
of three Khivan merchants, with whom he sent back 
Mongol representatives charged to obtain the various 
products of Khiva in exchange for their pelts. On the 
arrival of this rich caravan at the frontier town of Otrar, 
the Governor, apparently in order to obtain possession of 
their property, imprisoned the members of the party and 
submitted a report to the monarch that they were spies, 
as in all probability was the case. In reply he was 
instructed to execute them, and duly carried out the 
sentence. Chengiz had undoubtedly received the 
despatches of the Caliph Nasir, whose intrigues are 
mentioned in Chapter LIII., and to judge by his action 
was on the look-out for a pretext such as the impolitic 
severity of Mohamed gave him. Hearing of the fate 
which had befallen the trading venture, he sent an 
embassy demanding the surrender of the governor of 
Otrar to Mongol vengeance, war being the alternative. 
Mohamed, blinded by his earlier uninterrupted successes, 
made war certain by putting the ambassador to death. The 
first battle was fought against a relatively small Mongol 
force returning from the pursuit of the Merkites, who 
had been allies of Guchluk. The Mongol general wished 
to avoid an action, but the Khivan army attacked and in 
the end was victorious, although their left wing had been 
broken, and the day was saved only by a brilliant charge 
headed by the impetuous Jalal-u-Din, the fighting son of 

The Invasion of Transoxiana^ a.h. 6i6 (1219)* — The 
awful torrent of destruction was actually set in motion 
a year after war had been decided upon, and in a.h. 616 
(12 19) the Mongol hordes were directed on the Sir 
Daria at Otrar. Mohamed had collected a great field 
army of 400,000 men to fight a decisive battle, but was 
defeated between Ush and Sangar with crushing losses by 


Juji, the eldest son of Chengiz. After this he resigned 
the initiative to the invaders and contented himself with 
garrisoning his chief cities, in the hope that the Mongols, 
after ravaging the open country, would return home with 
their booty. Consequently the task of the Mongols was 
easy, and Chengiz was able to divide up his columns 
without much fear that any single one would be attacked 
by an overwhelming force. To his sons Chagatay and 
Ogotay the siege of Otrar was assigned ; Juji, after 
defeating Mohamed, continued his march towards the 
province of Jand to the north, a small force of only five 
thousand being detached to work upstream to Khojand ; 
and Chengiz himself, accompanied by Tuli, the youngest 
of his four sons, marched on Bokhara with the main army, 
ready to accept battle if Mohamed desired to fight for his 
throne. The siege of Otrar lasted six months, and its 
Governor, knowing that he was a doomed man, fought 
to the bitter end ; but, as no aid was received from the 
cowardly Shah of Khiva, the city was at last taken. The 
Governor held out for another month in the fort, but in 
spite of desperate bravery was taken alive and brought 
before Chengiz, who ordered molten silver to be poured 
into his eyes and ears in retribution for his massacre of 
the unfortunate merchants. Juji captured Signac after a 
seven days' siege and Jand itself offered no resistance. 

Bokhara was for some days defended by the garrison, 
twenty thousand strong ; but the position was regarded 
as hopeless, and an attempt to break through was carried 
out successfully. The Mongols, though surprised, rallied 
quickly and pursued the fugitives, who were cut to pieces 
on the banks of the Oxus. Bokhara thereupon sur- 
rendered, and Chengiz rode into the great mosque, where 
the Mongols indulged in an orgy to celebrate their success. 
The populace was collected and the rich men were obliged 
to hand over all their wealth. The city was then sacked 
and afterwards burned, and the wretched inhabitants were 
divided up among their savage conquerors, whose custom 
was to use the serviceable men for digging approaches, for 
erecting the siege-train, and, if necessary, for filling up the 
ditch of a city with fascines, which were supplemented with 


their own bodies. The women were of course the prey 

of the captors. 

From Bokhara Chengiz followed the fertile valley of 
the Zarafshan to Samarcand, which was strongly garrisoned 
by forty thousand men. No resistance, however, was 
attempted; the Turkish section of the garrison sur- 
rendered, hoping for good treatment, and massacre was 
their reward. Of the inhabitants, thirty thousand artificers 
were distributed among the Mongols, an equal number 
were taken for use in military operations, and fifty 
thousand were permitted to ransom themselves, but in 
most cases were afterwards seized for military operations. 
Indeed, the whole country was denuded of its population. 

The Pursuit of Mohamed and his Death^ a.h. 617 
(1220). — We must now turn to the cowardly Ala-u-Din 
Mohamed. He had watched the Mongol irruption from 
Samarcand as long as it was safe to do so, but when there 
was danger of being besieged in his capital he . fled to 
Balkh, intending to take refuge at Ghazna. But he 
changed his mind and proceeded to Nishapur, hoping 
that the Mongols would return home after acquiring 
such immense booty. His heroic son Jalal-u-Din in vain 
begged to be allowed to defend the line of the Oxus, 
exclaiming with generous heat that by this action they 
would at any rate avoid the curses of their subjects, who 
would say, " Up to now they have overwhelmed us 
with taxes, and in the hour of danger they abandon us 
to the fury of the Tartars." Mohamed declined either 
to fight or to relinquish the command of the army to his 
son, and hearing that the Mongols had crossed the Oxus 
he fled from Nishapur, much as Darius had fled before 
Alexander, and along the very same route, although in 
the opposite direction. 

From Samarcand Chengiz had despatched two bodies 
of troops, each ten thousand strong, with instructions to 
seek out Mohamed, to hold him if he intended to fight 
a battle, and to pursue him if he fled. The division of 
Chebe, passing by Nishapur, ravaged Kuchan, Isfarayin, 
and Damghan, and, uniting with the division of Subutay 
before Rei, surprised and sacked that city. 


Meanwhile Mohamed had reached Kazvin and in- 
tended to make a stand there. While he was organizing 
an army, news reached him of the capture of Rei, distant 
less than one hundred miles. His army, infected with 
the spirit of its monarch, scattered, and Mohamed, after 
nearly falling into the hands of the Mongols, escaped 
into Mazanderan, and finally took refuge in a small island 
off the coast. The craven monarch, though safe at last, 
was dying, and he passed away leaving behind him a 
reputation for pusillanimity which has rarely been 
paralleled in history. 

The Siege of Urganj^ a.h. 617 (1220). — After the death 
of Mohamed three of his sons travelled by sea to the 
Mangishlak peninsula, and on reaching the capital of 
Khwarazm were warmly welcomed by all classes. An 
army was collected, but a conspiracy being formed against 
Jalal-u-Din he was forced to flee with three hundred men. 
Crossing the desert in sixteen days, he reached Nisa, a few 
miles to the south-west of modern Askabad, only to find 
it held by a body of seven hundred Mongols. With the 
courage of despair the heroic Prince charged and defeated 
this force and reached Nishapur in safety. Two of his 
brothers, hearing that a large force was concentrating on 
Urganj, followed in his track three days later and were 
killed by the Mongols. 

The next operation of Chengiz was to despatch a 
force under Juji, Chagatay, and Ogotay to besiege the 
capital of Khwarazm. The Mongols on reaching the 
city gates were attacked and pursued by the garrison, 
which was drawn into a carefully prepared ambush, and 
suffered heavily. Upon the arrival of the main army 
before Urganj, the wretched Tajiks^ from other con- 
quered cities were forced to fill up the ditches and the 
artillery was then placed in position. The Mongols, how- 
ever, failed in an attempt to capture the bridge uniting 
the two parts of the town, and owing to quarrels between 
Juji and Chagatay the conduct of operations was paralysed. 

^ Tajik is the term used to denote the sedentary population, as opposed to Turk, 
which employed in this connexion includes all tent-dwellers. It is the same word as 
Tazi, which signifies Arab and still survives in the word used to denote the so-called 
Persian greyhound, which was apparently introduced by the Arab Conquerors. 


To remedy this state of affairs, Chengiz gave the 
supreme command to Ogotay, who ordered an assault. 
This was successful, and although the inhabitants offered 
a desperate resistance they were finally obliged to beg for 
terms, after having kept the Mongols at bay for more 
than six months. The victors collected the entire 
populace, and having gathered the artisans into a separate 
class massacred the other males and enslaved the women 
and children. After this atrocious act they turned the 
waters of the Oxus on to the site of the city, and in 
so doing diverted the river once again into its ancient 
channel, which led to the Caspian Sea.^ 

The Devastation of Khorasan^ a.h. 617 (1220). — After 
spending the summer in the meadows of Nakhsab, 
Chengiz opened a fresh campaign by the capture of 
Termiz on the Oxus, which barred the road to Balkh. 
It was stormed on the tenth day and all its inhabitants 
were massacred. He then went into winter quarters close 
by and ravaged neighbouring Badakshan. In the spring 
he advanced on Balkh, which offered no resistance. But 
the conqueror, hearing that Jalal-u-Din was organizing 
an army at Ghazna, deliberately destroyed the city and 
massacred its thousands of inhabitants, preferring to leave 
a reeking charnel house in his rear rather than run the 
risk of having his communications cut Meanwhile Tuli 
had been despatched to complete the sack and ruin of 
Khorasan, which had already been occupied in parts by 
Chebe and Subutay, who had left governors in some 
of the cities. The inhabitants of Tus, seeing that the 
Mongol ruler was isolated, had risen against him ; but the 
revolt was easily put down by a body of three hundred 
Mongols stationed at Ustuva, the modern Kuchan, and 
on their demand even the ramparts of Tus were de- 
molished by the terrified townspeople. Tuli began his 
march into Khorasan in the autumn of a.d. 1220, 
preceded by an advance force ten thousand strong, which 
besieged Nisa to avenge the death of its chief, who had 
been killed by an arrow shot from the city walls. Here 
again the town was stormed, and men, women, and children 

^ Vide Chapter II. p. 23. 


were massacred. Nishapur was not captured at the first 
attempt, and Togachar, a son-in-law of Chengiz, was 
killed ; but Sabzawar was stormed and its seventy- 
thousand inhabitants were massacred. 

The Destruction of Merv and Nishapur, — The first main 
operation undertaken by Tuli was the capture of Merv 
Shahijan, the famous capital of Sanjar, which had recovered 
from the devastation wrought by the Ghuzz and was at 
the zenith of its prosperity and civilization. In proof of 
this there is a letter written by Yakut, the eminent 
geographer, at Mosul, where he had arrived safely from 
Merv after many narrow escapes. He refers in glowing 
language to the rich libraries, to the many men of science, 
and to the numerous authors of Merv, and exclaims in 
his enthusiasm, "Their children were men, their youths 
heroes, and their old men saints.'* He then* laments as 
follows : " The people of infidelity and impiety roamed 
through these abodes ; that erring and contumacious race 
(the Mongols) dominated over the inhabitants, so that 
those palaces were effaced from off the earth as lines of 
writing are effaced from paper, and those abodes became 
a dwelling for the owl and the raven ; in those places the 
screech-owls answer each other's cries, and in those halls 
the winds moan responsive to the simoon." 

The Mongol prince, having by means of false 
promises obtained possession of the persons of the lead- 
ing inhabitants of the doomed city, perpetrated a most 
horrible massacre of over half a million helpless inhabi- 
tants. Ibn-ul-Athir puts the number of victims as seven 
hundred thousand, and the author of the Jahan Gusha at 
a still higher figure. When it is borne in mind that the 
inhabitants of the surrounding district would all have fled 
to the city for protection these numbers are not incredible. 
Five thousand inhabitants of Merv, who escaped the 
massacre, were subsequently done to death by a troop of 
Mongols which was on its way to join the main army, 
and the place remained desolate until rebuilt more than a 
century later by Shah Rukh. 

From the smoking ruins of what had been Merv, 
Tuli marched to Nishapur. Preparations had been made 


for a vigorous defence, three thousand balistae for hurling 
javelins and five hundred catapults having been mounted 
on the ramparts. The Mongols on their side made still 
greater preparations, including seven hundred machines 
to throw pots of burning naphtha ; but in the event they 
carried the city by assault and massacred every living 
thing (including the cats and dogs) as a sacrifice to the 
spirit of Togachar, pyramids of skulls being built as a 
ghastly memorial of the feat of arms. The buildings 
were then entirely demolished and the site was sown 
with barley. I have shot sandgrouse within the area 
surrounded by the broken-down walls of ancient 
Nishapur, and I saw crops of barley growing in un- 
conscious imitation of the Mongols' sowing. 

The Capture of Herat. — The last great city of Khorasan 
to be attacked was Herat. There a desperate resistance 
was offered for eight days, but after the governor had 
been killed Tuli received the submission of the in- 
habitants and contented himself with putting the garrison 
to death. 

The Campaign against Jalal-u-Din^ a.h. 618 (1221). 
— Jalal-u-Din after defeating the superior force of Mongol 
sowars at Nisa, a feat of arms which constituted the first 
success gained over any body of Mongols in Persia, 
proceeded to Nishapur. Here he remained three days, 
and then continued his flight towards Ghazna. One 
hour after his departure from Nishapur, a detachment of 
Mongols arrived on the scene and picked up his trail. 
Jalal-u-Din fled at a great pace, traversing one hundred 
and twenty miles in the day, but on his arrival at Zuzan, 
to the south of Khaf, the gates were shut on him. He 
consequently continued his flight towards Herat, pursued 
for some distance beyond Zuzan by the Mongols, but 
finally reached Ghazna in safety. 

There anarchy prevailed, but the people rallied to his 
standard and in a short time he collected an army, with 
which, in the spring of a.d. 122 i, he marched north to 
the neighbourhood of Bamian. He gained an initial 
success by killing a thousand Mongols, which speedily 
brought against him a force of thirty thousand men 


under Shiki Kutucu, who had been posted to protect the 
operations of the main army. This stationing of protect- 
ing troops proves that Chengiz was not merely an able 
tactician, but also studied the military situation from the 
strategical point of view. 

When the two armies met, the right wing of Jalal-u- 
Din, which fought on foot, was broken, but on being 
reinforced it rallied, and night closed in on an undecided 
issue. The following day the Mongol general gave orders 
for a felt dummy to be tied on each spare horse to make 
the enemy believe that reinforcements had been received. 
This ruse was nearly successful, but Jalal-u-Din was a 
fighting Sultan and inspired his men with such courage 
that, after a repulse of the Mongols on foot the trumpets 
sounded a general advance, and the hated foemen were 
driven off the field, many of them being cut to pieces by 
the victorious Persians. Most unfortunately the division 
of the spoils provoked a quarrel which resulted in the 
desertion of the Ghorid contingent, and Jalal-u-Din, 
hearing that Chengiz was advancing on Ghazna, found 
himself unable to hold the line of the Hindu Kush and 
retreated towards Sind. 

To avenge the death of a grandson, the Mongol 
conqueror wiped Bamian out of existence, not even 
allowing it to be plundered, but oifering it up as a 
holocaust to the slain prince. He then advanced on 
Ghazna, which Jalal-u-Din had quitted a fortnight 
previously, and made a forced march of such rapidity 
that he overtook the Sultan on the borders of Sind, where 
the latter was hoping for contingents to join him. Un- 
willing to fight, Jalal-u-Din prepared to put the Indus 
between his small force and the pursuing army, but he 
was too slow and was hemmed in at early dawn. Fight- 
ing in the centre with desperate heroism, he attempted 
to break through, like a tiger charging a ring of elephants, 
but in vain. At noon he mounted a fresh horse and 
charged the Mongols ; when they gave way he suddenly 
turned about, jumped from the high bank into the Lidus, 
and swam across. Chengiz showed himself magnani- 
mous on this occasion, and not only forbade arrows to be 


shot at the hero, but held him up to his sons as a model 

in valour. 

Chengiz detached two units to pursue Jalal~u-Din, 
but they failed to discover him. They then attempted 
to take Multan, but the heat drove them ofF, and after 
ravaging far and wide they rejoined the main army which 
was returning to Tartary. 

In the spring of the following year the city of Ghazna 
was destroyed for military reasons, and at the same time 
a force was despatched to annihilate Herat, which had 
rebelled upon hearing of the success of Jalal-u-Din near 
Bamian. On this occasion the resistance offered was 
desperate, but after a siege of six months and seventeen 
days the city fell, and it is said that more than a million 
and a half of its inhabitants — an incredible number — were 
massacred. A short time afterwards a body of troops 
was sent back to the ruins of the city to search for 
survivors, who were killed to the number of two 

The Return to Tartary of Chengiz Khan, — Before march- 
ing north from India Chengiz Khan ordered the prisoners 
to clean a large quantity of rice for the army, and, after 
they had done it, massacred them all. He then in the first 
instance decided to return to Tartary by way of Tibet, 
but on realizing the difficulties of the route cancelled these 
orders, recrossed the Hindu Kush, and proceeded to 
Bokhara, where he received instruction in the tenets of 
the Moslem religion and ordered the Khutba to be read in 
his name. He remained inactive in Central Asia for 
over a year and then moved slowly back to his own 
country, which he reached in a.d. 1225. 

The Devastation of Western and North-Western Persia, — 
We must now turn to the armies of Chebe and Subutay, 
which had captured Rei and had pursued Mohamed 
to the Caspian Sea. Kum was their next objective ; 
Hamadan was spared in the first instance, but Zenjan 
and Kazvin were treated in the awful Mongol fashion. 
Tabriz was spared in return for a large sum of money, 
and the Mongols proceeded to the plain of Moghan, 
near the south-west corner of the Caspian. Contrary to 


expectation, they did not remain stationary but marched 
into Georgia in mid-winter, and being reinforced by 
bands of Turkoman and Kurds ravaged the country up 
to Tiflis. Returning thence they next besieged Maragha, 
which was destined to be the capital of Hulagu Khan, 
and this was treated like other cities. The intention of 
the leaders was to march on Baghdad, and the Caliph 
Nasir in great alarm attempted to organize a force but 
failed, partly because of the capture of Damietta by St. 
Louis, a disaster which drew away some of his chief 

The difficulty of passing the mountain gorges saved 
Baghdad on this occasion, and the Mongols returned to 
Hamadan, which they now sacked. From this city they 
marched on Ardebil, which they also sacked, and then 
returned to Tabriz, where they were once again bought 
off. Georgia was revisited, and by a pretended retreat its 
army was ambushed and cut to pieces. After this exploit 
the Mongols struck the Caspian Sea at Shamaka, near 
Baku, and followed it up to Darband. Not content with 
these limits, the fearless horde passed beyond the Caucasus 
and drove out the Kipchaks, who fled in terror across the 
Danube or into Russia. The Muscovite princes organized 
a force to repel the invaders, but near the Sea of Azov 
they were defeated and were put to death by being placed 
under planks, on which the victors sat and feasted. The 
districts near the Sea of Azov were ravaged, and the 
Mongols, marching eastwards, crossed the Upper Volga, 
where they defeated an army of Bulgars. After this 
remarkable military expedition, during the course of 
which the Caspian Sea had been almost encircled, they 
rejoined the main army in Tartary. 

Before we conclude this account of the appalling devas- 
tation from which Northern Persia and the countries to 
the north of it suffered, it is to be noted that another 
Mongol division in a.h. 621 (1224) attacked Rei, Sava, 
Kum, Kashan, and Hamadan, massacring the inhabitants 
who had escaped from the earlier invasion. 

To sum up, the testimony of all contemporary histor- 
ians is that wherever the Mongols passed the population 


was almost exterminated and the land reverted to desert. 
In the Jahan Gusha we read as follows : " Not one- 
thousandth of the population escaped," and again, "If 
from now to the Day of Judgment nothing hinders the 
growth of population, it cannot reach one- tenth of the 
figure at which it stood before the Mongol conquest." 
These words, even with all allowance for exaggeration, 
express human misery at its deepest, and our finite minds, 
the products of a civilized age, can barely grasp their full 
meaning. Most fortunately. Southern Persia escaped the 
Mongol blast of death, and it was probably owing to this 
happy circumstance that the recovery was ultimately more 
rapid than could have been anticipated. 

The Death of Chengiz Khan^ a.h. 624 (1227). — The 
last campaign undertaken by Chengiz Khan was the in- 
vasion of Tangut, which was overrun and ravaged. The 
Great Conqueror, feeling his end approaching, appointed 
Ogotay, his third son, to be his successor and advised his 
sons to avoid internal strife. He then passed away 
in the sixty-sixth year of his reign. His body was taken 
to his Urdu/ and, in order to prevent his death from 
becoming known, every one whom the troops met on the 
road was killed. 

His Character and Genius. — Thus in a river of blood 
passed to his sepulchre Chengiz Khan, who had destroyed 
more human beings than any other recorded victorious 
warrior, and had conquered the largest empire the world 
had known. It must not be assumed, because of his 
appalHng thirst for blood, that he was lacking in genius. 
On the contrary, he had shown unquestionable genius 
in his early career when battling, never daunted, against 
adverse circumstances, and step by step he built up an 
empire which raised the despised nomads of Tartary to 
the lordship of Asia. 

His organization was founded on a unit of ten men, 
whose chief obeyed a centurion, who in turn obeyed the 
comniander of a thousand, and so up to the commanders 
of divisions. His policy was false, but successful. 

1 The word means "Camp," and "horde*' is a corruption of it. The language 
commonly known as Hindustani is more correctly termed Urdu, and derives its name 
from the fact that it originated in the camp of the Moghul Emperors of Delhi. 


Before he attacked a kingdom, a summons to submit was 
despatched in the following terms, " If you do not submit, 
how can we tell what will happen ? God alone knows ! " 
If the ruler submitted, he was bound to give immediately 
a large sum of money and the tenth of everything, 
including his subjects. Mongol governors were then 
appointed, and the country was ruined by their exactions 
and atrocities. If resistance was offered and the city 
was strong, the surrounding country was devastated and 
treachery was attempted. At this stage of the operations 
an ambush was frequently successful. If the city still 
held out, lines were dug round it by prisoners, who also 
were driven to head the assaults, and attacks in relays 
gave the besieged no rest. Moreover, the fact that the 
Mongols possessed themselves of every known military 
engine, and had even a corp of miners, is sufficient in 
itself to show the genius for war that distinguished their 
leader. In the field their tactics were admirable. They 
understood the art of feigning retreat, of envelopment 
and of surprise, and, as battle after battle was fought 
and won against nations employing different methods of 
warfare, the sum of their experience made them invincible. 
The feelings of Chengiz Khan himself may be 
exemplified in the following saying attributed to him : 
" The greatest joy is to conquer one's enemies, to pursue 
them, to seize their property, to see their families in 
tears, to ride their horses, and to possess their daughters 
and wives." ^ 

^ yami-ul-Tcvarikh. 





Well It were if from the heavens tears of blood on earth should flow 
For the Ruler of the Faithful, al-Musta'sim, brought so low. 
If, Mohamed, at the Judgment from the dust thy head thou'lt raise. 
Raise it now, behold the Judgment fallen on thy folk below ! 
Waves of blood the dainty thresholds of the Palace-beauties whelm ; 
While from out my heart the life-blood dyes my sleeve with hues of woe. 
Fear vicissitudes of Fortune ; fear the Sphere's revolving change ; 
Who could dream that such a splendour such a fate should overthrow ? 
Raise your eyes, O ye who once upon that Holy House did gaze. 
Watching Khans and Roman Caesars cringing to its portals go. 
Now upon that self-same threshold where the Kings their foreheads laid, 
From the children of the Prophet's Uncle streams of blood do flow ! 

Threnody by Sadi. 

The Division of the Mongol Empire. — By his will 
Chengiz Khan divided the immense empire which he had 
founded among his four chief sons, or their families — as 
in the case of Juji, who had predeceased his father. The 
division was made by the distribution of clans as appanages 
rather than by strict territorial limits, which it was probably 
not his wish to define. The third son, Ogotay, was nomin- 
ated Khakan, or " Supreme Khan," and to make the posi- 
tion clear I append the following precis by Lane-Poole ^ : 

1 . The line of Ogotay^ ruling the tribes of Zungaria ; 
Khakans till their extinction by the family of Tuli. 

2. The line of Tuli^ ruling the home clans of 
Mongolistan ; Khakans after Ogotay's line, down to the 
Manchu supremacy. 

^ op. cit. p. 205. 


3. The Persian branch of the lineofTuli : Hulagu and 
his successors, the Il-Khans of Persia. 

4. The line of Juji^ ruling the Turkish tribes of the 
Khanate of Kipchak ; the Khans of the Golden and 
White Hordes . . . and finally the Khans of Khiva and 

5. The line of Chagatay^ ruling Mawaranahr or 

In A.D. 1229, two years after the death of Chengiz 
Khan, a Diet of the Nobles was held at which Ogotay 
was elected Khakan. He received the homage of all and 
celebrated his accession by sending forty of the most 
beautiful Mongol maidens " to serve Chengiz in the other 
world *' ; horses too were sacrificed. He then distributed 
costly gifts among his generals. 

ihree Great Expeditions, — At this Diet three great 
military expeditions were projected, the first of which was 
the despatch of an army thirty thousand strong, under 
Chormaghun, to attack Jalal-u-Din. The second army, 
of equal strength, was to conquer Central and Southern 
Russia, inhabited at that period by Bulgars, Kipchaks, and 
Sukassines, and the third army, under the immediate 
command of Ogotay, was to continue the conquest of 
Northern China. 

The expedition against Jalal-u-Din alone concerns 
Persia directly, but the results of the other two may be 
mentioned. The campaign conducted by Ogotay resulted 
in the complete conquest of the Kin empire, which had 
been only partially reduced during the lifetime of Chengiz 
Khan ; but the Sung dynasty of Southern China was not 
subdued until Khubilay's reign. In Europe the Mongols 
carried fire and the sword across Russia to Poland and 
Hungary from a.d. 1236 to 1241, and so widespread was 
the alarm that, according to Matthew Paris, in a.d. 1238, 
" the people of Gothland and Friesland did not dare to 
come to Yarmouth for the herring fishery.'' ^ 

The death of Ogotay in a.d. 1241 necessitated a new 
Diet, and this, together with the rugged nature of Central 
Europe, which was unsuitable for the movements of the 

1 Chronica Major a, vol, iii. p. 488. 


Tartars, and its remoteness in comparison with China 
and Persia, probably saved Western Europe. But the 
Mongols riveted their yoke on Russia and for two 
centuries its national life was arrested, while it received 
that Oriental tinge ^ which is so apparent to the western 
European ; or, as Gibbon expresses it, " the deep and 
perhaps indelible mark which a servitude of two hundred 
years has imprinted on the character of the Russians." 

The Campaign of Jalal-u-Din in India^A.u, 619 (1222). 
— Having effected his escape from Chengiz Khan by 
swimming the Indus, Jalal-u-Din collected the remnants 
of his army to the number of two thousand men, who 
were destitute of everything but valour. Thanks to this 
virtue, they were able to rearm and remount themselves, 
and Jalal-u-Din, learning that he was being pursued by 
two Mongol divisions, retreated towards Delhi. Its ruler 
Shams-u-Din Altamish,^ the best known and most capable 
member of the so-called " Slave Kings," sent the Sultan 
splendid gifts, with the hint that the climate of Delhi 
would not suit his health and that he had better establish 
himself at Multan. Jalal-u-Din, finding Delhi inhospit- 
able, perforce retraced his steps, and invaded Sind with 
the aid of reinforcements which had reached him from 
Persia. But the Slave King was determined not to allow 
so redoubtable a soldier to establish himself even in the 
territory of a rival, and a league of Indian princes was 
formed to drive him out. Thereupon Jalal-u-Din, seeing 
that resistance to such a combination was hopeless, decided 
to return to Persia. 

His Return to Persia^ a.h. 620 (1223). — The daunt- 
less Sultan traversed Makran more or less in the foot- 
steps of Alexander the Great, and like him lost the 
greater part of his army in its deserts, so that he reached 
Kerman with only four thousand men. His arrival 
happened to coincide with the moment at which Borak 
Hajib, having killed the former Governor, was besieging 
the capital, and the city opened its gates to Jalal-u-Din. 
Borak Hajib, to whom we shall return later, at first 

There are about five million Tartars still resident in European Russia and a 
similar number of Jews. 

2 Mohamedan Dynasties^ p. 295. 


treated his sovereign with due respect, but after the 
capture of Kerman formed a conspiracy against him. 
Jalal-u-Din was aware of the treacherous designs, but in 
order to avoid creating a bad impression upon his first 
return to Persia he ignored the plot, and after spending 
a month at Kerman marched westwards into Pars. There 
he was at first treated with cool politeness by the Atabeg 
Sad, but afterwards became his son-in-law. 

Ghias-u-Din. — Upon the retirement of the Mongols 
from Northern Persia, a younger brother of Jalal-u-Din, 
by name Ghias-u-Din, had obtained possession of Khor- 
asan, Mazanderan, and Irak. Indolent and voluptuous, 
this prince was not the man to restore a half- ruined 
country, and the army transferred its allegiance to his 
elder brother, who became ruler of Northern Persia, 
Ghias-u-Din perforce submitting. • 

The Campaign against the Caliph^ a.h. 622 (1225). — 
After establishing his authority as Shah of Khwarazm, 
Jalal-u-Din marched to attack the Caliph Nasir, the 
enemy of his father. The campaign opened with the 
siege of Shuster, which, however, proved impregnable. 
He then marched on Baghdad and drew the Caliph's 
army into an ambush, whereby he gained a decisive 
victory, pursuing his defeated enemy to the gates of the 
capital. He did not attempt to take Baghdad, but 
marched north and invaded and occupied Azerbaijan. 
Never content to organize the fruits of his brilliant 
victories, Jalal-u-Din had no sooner won Tabriz than 
he invaded Georgia, and in two campaigns captured 
Tiflis, in A.H. 623 (1226). His next exploit was to 
extirpate a tribe of raiding Turkoman, and in the follow- 
ing year he ravaged the Ismaili territories and also beat a 
Mongol force at Damghan, to the east of Rei. 

The Battle of Isfahan ^ a.h. 625 (1228). — The Mongols 
after this defeat appeared in greater force, and pursued a 
Persian corps of observation to Isfahan, which was the 
Sultan's headquarters. The Mongol army, composed 
of five divisions, prepared to besiege the city, but the 
Sultan marched out, determined to fight in the open. 
Although deserted by Ghias-u-Din on the battlefield, this 


intrepid soldier, who alone of the monarchs of the period 
faced the dreaded Mongols, engaged the foe. His right 
wing broke the left wing of the enemy, which it pursued 
as far north as Kashan, and Jalal-u-Din thought the day- 
won ; but on advancing he was attacked by a Mongol 
corps d'ilite which broke his left wing. The Sultan cut 
his way through, and although reported dead reappeared 
at Isfahan after the Mongols had retreated with heavy 

The Single Combats of Jalal-u-Din. — Jalal-u-Din was 
now called upon to face a confederation of Georgians, 
Alans, Lesgians, and Kipchaks. He detached the last- 
named tribe by reminding them how he had saved the 
life of many of them during the reign of his father, and 
by way of a spectacle to both armies proposed to fight 
the champions of the Georgians. Having killed success- 
ively a noted warrior and his three sons, he was attacked 
by a huge giant. His horse was fatigued, but nothing 
daunted the gallant soldier leapt to the ground, disarmed 
his opponent and killed him. Truly an amazing feat ! 
He then gave the signal, and his horsemen fell upon 
the army of the Georgians, which fled before them. 

In A.H. 626 (1229) Jalal-u-Din made peace with the 
Caliph, who, in return for having his name restored in 
the public prayers, conferred on the monarch the title of 
Shah-in-Shah, while refusing that of Sultan. 

His Escapes from the Mongols and his Death^ a.h. 628 
(1231). — The Mongol army under Chormaghun, the 
despatch of which has been already mentioned, found 
Jalal-u-Din unprepared. Indeed he was surprised in the 
Moghan plain where he was waiting for his army to 
assemble, and barely succeeded in escaping. After this 
his role was that of a fugitive, unable to meet the Mongol 
army, whose general was particularly anxious to effect his 
capture. He held Ganja for a time, and, after one more 
narrow escape from the Mongols, was killed by a Kurdish 
tribesman who was looking out for refugees to plunder. 

Thus ended the brilliant career of one of the bravest 
and most enterprising soldiers who ever lived. Had 
Jalal-u-Din possessed the greater qualities of general or 


statesman, he would surely have been able to organize a 
force capable of defeating the Mongols, and would thereby 
have prevented the sack of Baghdad. As it was, he is 
remembered in history as a dazzling meteor, perhaps a 
prototype of Charles XII. of Sweden. 

The Mongol Campaigns in Asia Minor and Syria, — 
Chormaghun, realizing that Jalal-u-Din was not in a 
position to offer any organized resistance, ravaged Mesopo- 
tamia, Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, and 
committed atrocities similar to those already described. 
Ibn-ul-Athir states that the panic which prevailed made 
the peasantry so cowardly that on one occasion a Mongol 
who wished to kill a man, but was unarmed, told him to 
lie down and await his return with a sword, and this the 
unnerved victim actually did. As will be seen later, in 
the eighteenth century the Afghans were able to treat the 
citizens of Isfahan in the same manner, they too being 
unable to move from fear. 

The division commanded at first by Chormaghun, 
and afterwards by Baydu, ravaged the provinces to the 
west of Persia during the next twenty years, their cavalry 
raids extending as far as Aleppo, and we learn from 
Matthew Paris ^ that the Christian Prince of Antioch and 
other Christian lords paid them tribute. 

The Kutlugh Khans of Kerman^ a.yl, 619-703 (1222— 
1303). — As mentioned in Chapter LIII., Fars and Luristan 
were governed by independent princes termed Atabeg, 
and escaped the Mongol terror by politic submission. 
We now turn to the remaining province of Kerman. 
Although like Fars its remoteness saved it from the 
Mongols, it had, as already related, been devastated again 
and again by the ferocious Ghuzz. The Ik or Shabancara 
tribe next gained possession of the province for a short 
time, but in a.h. 600 (1203) it was seized by an army 
from Fars. Shortly after the exhausted country had 
begun to recover under the ruler sent by the Atabeg of 
Fars, a new power appeared on the scene in the person 
of Khoja Razi-u-Din Zuzani with an army from Khiva 
which destroyed everything that the other armies had 

^ Pp. 876 and 937. 


spared. Finally the Fars authorities withdrew their force, 
probably on account of their relation to the suzerain 
court of Khwarazm, and Razi-u-Din, after experiencing 
some vicissitudes of fortune, obtained possession of the 
province, which upon his death he bequeathed to his son 
MaHk Shuja-u-Din. 

Another new character now appeared at Kerman in 
the shape of a certain Borak Hajib,^ once an official of the 
Kara Khitai dynasty, who had transferred his services to 
Khwarazm, and was proceeding to India accompanied by 
a number of Khwarazm Amirs, with the intention of 
joining Jalal-u-Din. Malik Shuja-u-Din attempted to 
rob the party, but was defeated and put to death. Borak 
Hajib, feeling that it would be foolish to neglect such an 
exceptional opportunity, seized the province with the aid 
of Jalal-u-Din and made good his position. He attempted 
the life of his sovereign, as already narrated, and sub- 
sequently captured and strangled Ghias-u-Din. With the 
present of his head this disloyal, but only too successful, 
adventurer won the favour of the Mongols, and Ogotay 
not only confirmed him in his rule, but conferred on him 
the title of Kutlugh Khan. The dynasty played no part 
outside the Kerman province and does not appear to call 
for further notice.^ 

Christian Missions to the Mongols^ a.d. i 245-1 253. — The 
invasion of the Mongols, and more especially the awful 
devastation wrought by them in Poland and Hungary, 
had excited much alarm and horror all over Europe, 
though not sufficient to cause a cessation of internal strife. 
When it appeared improbable that they would attempt 
to conquer Western Europe, the fear they inspired began 
to give place to the hope that they would shatter Islam, 
and rumours were also heard that there were Christian 
tribes among the new invaders. 

The views of Christendom found expression at the 
Council of Lyons, held in 1245, which decided that two 
embassies should be despatched to the Great Khan. Only 
one of these reached its destination. At its head was 

^ Haj'ib signifies Chief Guardian or Chamberlain. 
"^ In Ten Thousand Miles, etc.y pp. 60-62, I have dealt with this dynasty more fully. 


John de Piano Carpini, a Franciscan, who made a won- 
derful journey by way of Batu's camp on the Volga to 
Karacoram, the capital founded by Ogotay. He arrived 
there in a.d. 1246, at an interesting time, as a Diet was 
being held for the election of Kuyuk to the throne 
rendered vacant by the death of his father, Ogotay. 

Two of Kuyuk's ministers were Christians, and in 
consequence the Pope's ambassador had a friendly recep- 
tion. Very different was the treatment accorded to the 
representatives of the Caliph and of the Assassins, who 
were dismissed with threats and menaces. To the Latin 
mission letters were given, and, ignoring a hint that they 
should be accompanied by Tartar envoys, they set out on 
their long return journey, which was successfully accom- 
plished. John died shortly after his return, but the 
information he brought to Europe was of 'the utmost 

The next mission to be despatched was placed under 
the Dominican Friar Anselm, who had instructions to 
seek out the nearest Tartar army and deliver a letter 
from the Pope exhorting the Mongols not to renew their 
ravages in Christian countries and to repent of their mis- 
deeds. In 1247 this truly forlorn hope reached the camp 
of the General Baydu in Persia, and, as the friars brought 
no gifts and refused to do obeisance, they were treated 
with contempt " as dogs." Their letters, however, were 
translated first into Persian and then into Tartar and 
were read before Baydu. The monks were kept waiting 
for an answer by the incensed Mongol, who, it is said, 
thrice gave the order for their execution. But in the end 
they were dismissed with the reply of the General in the 
words of Chengiz : " Whoever will obey us, let him 
remain in possession of his land, of his water, and of his 
inheritance . . . but whoever resists, let him be anni- 
hilated." The Pope was summoned to come in person 
and offer his submission. These intrepid friars returned 
in safety to Rome after an absence of three and a half 

We now come to the famous mission of William of 
Rubruquis, who was despatched by St. Louis and reached 


Karacoram in 1253 ; by this date Kuyuk was dead and 
Mangu, son of Tuli, had been elected Khakan. Mangu 
accorded the envoy more than one audience, treated him 
kindly, and gave him letters for his master, but he was 
always half- drunk, and never committed himself to 
acknowledging the Christian religion, as had been hoped. 
Both John di Piano Carpini and William of Rubruquis 
were great travellers and keen observers, whose courage 
amidst constant danger and equally constant hunger 
deserves great admiration. 

Yet another traveller who merits a place on the roll 
of fame is Hayton, king of Armenia, who reached the 
court of Mangu shortly after the departure of Rubruquis. 
He travelled by way of the camp of Batu and was received 
with much honour by the Khakan. On his return he 
traversed Transoxiana, crossed Northern Persia, and 
reached his kingdom after completing a great round 
journey, an account of which has fortunately been pre- 
served to us. 

The Administration of Northern Persia before Hulagu 
Khan. — When Chormaghun was despatched by Ogotay to 
attack Jalal-u-Din, the Mongol Governor of Khwarazm, 
Chintimur by name, was instructed to co-operate by 
occupying Khorasan. Many districts had previously 
escaped devastation, but all were now systematically 
spoiled. These proceedings were made difficult for 
some time by two officers of Jalal-u-Din who waged 
a guerilla warfare from the Nishapur Mountains, but 
they were finally defeated near Sabzawar after a battle 
lasting three days, in which the Mongols lost two 
thousand men. 

Chintimur died in a.d. 1235 ^^^ was succeeded by 
Keurguez, his secretary. This very capable man set to 
work to organize the administration and to repress the 
terrible exactions under which the peasants groaned. 
Later on, after clearing himself from certain charges 
brought against him before the Khakan, he was given 
the governorship of all the provinces west of the Oxus 
and was able to rescue them from the cruel and impolitic 
rule of the officers of Chormaghun. He chose as his 


residence Tus, in which only fifty inhabited houses had 
been left, and the Persian nobles at once bought up the 
land to build residences near him. Upon Ogotay's death 
his widow despatched Arghun to supersede and arrest 
this able official, who was put to death by having earth 
ft)rced down his throat. 

Under Arghun the taxes were at first levied with the 
utmost severity by Sharaf-u-Din, his Moslem interpreter, 
but after the death of the latter every eflFort was made to 
secure good administration, and Kuyuk, upon his succes- 
sion, confirmed Arghun in his government. Mangu, too, 
approved of his administration, and in order to remedy 
abuses by which the princes of the blood secured orders 
on the revenue, it was decided that a fixed poll-tax should 
be paid and that nothing else should be exacted. 

The Appointment of Hulagu Khan to Persia^ a.h. 649 
(1251). — Mangu was elected Khakan in a.d. 1251, and 
upon his accession two great expeditions were decided 
upon, one under his next brother, Khubilay, to China, 
and the other under a younger brother, Hulagu Khan, 
the founder of the dynasty of the Il-Khans, to Persia. 
Hulagu with a strong army and a powerful Chinese 
engineer and artillery corps started from Karacoram in 
A.D. 1252, with instructions to crush the Assassins and 
to extinguish the Caliphate. The Mongol prince moved 
even more leisurely than was usual and did not reach the 
borders of his command until three and a half years later. 
At Kesh he was met by Arghun, who was accompanied 
by the future historian, Ata Malik of Juwayn. This 
able Persian served Hulagu as secretary through the im- 
portant campaign that followed and was thereby enabled 
to write a history from first-hand sources. 

The Dynasty of the Assassins at its Zenith. — Reference 
has already twice been made to the Assassins, who were 
Hulagu 's first objective, and before we come to the ex- 
tirpation of this noxious sect some account of their later 
history is necessary. Hasan Sabbah lived to a green old 
age and, having put to death both his own sons, appointed 
his colleague Kiya Buzurg-Umid to succeed him. The 
importance of the sect increased under this man and 


under his son Mohamed, who died in a.d. i 162, and was 
succeeded by his son, Hasan. This somewhat extra- 
ordinary man disowned his own parentage and proclaimed 
himself the descendant of the Fatimid Nizar. To further 
his ambitions he convened an assembly in a.h. 559 
( 1 1 64) and not only proclaimed himself to be the Imam, 
but announced the abrogation of the letter of the law in 
favour of its allegorical meaning. It is stated that the 
term Mulahida or " heretics " was given to the sect 
owing to this new claim, and by this name they are still 
known in Khorasan. Hasan, after ruling for some years, 
was assassinated, but his son followed in his father's foot- 
steps. In A.D. 1 2 10 Jalal-u-Din succeeded to the inherit- 
ance, and, completely reversing the policy of the sect, 
declared himself an orthodox Moslem. He entered into 
friendly relations with the Caliph Nasir and with neigh- 
bouring Moslem princes and later on allied himself with the 
heroic Jalal-u-Din of Khiva ; but he dreaded the power of 
Chengiz Khan, to whom he despatched an embassy. In 
A.D. 1220 he died suddenly, probably of poison. His suc- 
cessor and the last Grand Master was a boy of nine, by name 
Rukn-u-Din. In a.d. 1238 he despatched an embassy to 
Europe, and we read in Matthew Paris that it was treated 
coldly. An envoy visited the Court of Henry III. of 
England to plead the cause of the Ismailis, but the Bishop 
of Winchester probably expressed the public feeling in 
the words : " Let those dogs devour each other and be 
utterly wiped out and then we shall see, founded on their 
ruins, the universal Catholic Church.'' 

The Extirpation of the Assassins^ a.h. 654 (1256). — 
Hulagu was able to attack the Ismaili fortresses in detail, 
and as the Grand Master possessed practically no field 
army the sect was doomed. The storm broke first on 
Khaf and Tun, which were captured, the entire population 
being massacred except a few beautiful girls. Rukn-u- 
Din in a fit of profound discouragement surrendered 
many of his other fortresses, and finally his capital Alamut 
near Kazvin and his own person, to the Mongols, who 
thus eradicated the sect with the utmost ease. In 
Khorasan and also in the Kerman province a few hundred 


of its followers still survive and are to some extent 
protected by the British officials.-^ 

The Sack of Baghdad and the Execution of the Caliph^ 
A.H. 656 (1258). — From Hamadan, which Hulagu had 
made his headquarters after crushing the Assassins, a 
summons was sent to the Caliph Mustasim Billah, and in 
the autumn of a.d. 1257, or more than a year after 
accomplishing his first task, the Mongol prince, after 
much hesitation and consultation of astrologers, marched 
westwards to attack Baghdad fi*om the east in co-operation 
with Baydu. The latter was instructed to march from 
the north and attack from the west, the object evidently 
being to prevent the escape of the Caliph and his subjects. 
Mustasim Billah was an unworthy nullity, full of false 
pride. Instead of profiting by the delay granted him 
through Hulagu's love of ease and pleasure, he took no 
adequate steps to collect troops, and above all, utterly 
refused to unlock the doors of his treasure-house. Had 
he been a capable ruler, he could very probably have 
beaten oiF the Mongols, but the last of the Abbasid 
dynasty was a sorry degenerate. 

The two Mongol armies aggregated about one hundred 
thousand men, whereas the Caliph, owing to his avarice 
and folly, could not muster more than one-fifth of that 
force. Resistance was offered at Takrit, where the bridge 
over the Tigris was destroyed, and again at Dujayal ; but 
the Mongols flooded the Moslem camp during the night, 
making the position impossible, and only a few fugitives 
escaped to Baghdad. The Mongols now advanced on the 
heart of Islam and took part of the walls by assault. 
Overtures were then made, and, like so many other deluded 
victims of Mongol treachery, the Caliph surrendered. 
According to the Moslem historians, he was done to 
death by being tied up in a sack and then trampled on 
by horses or beaten with clubs, and the story is not 
improbable, since to shed royal blood was contrary to the 
Mongol usage. 

However, it is impossible to pass by the account 

1 In Chapter LXXVII. an account is given of the rebellion of Aga Khan, the leader 
of the Ismailis in the middle of the nineteenth century. 


enshrined in Longfellow's "Kambalu/'^ according to 
which Alau (as Hulagu is named) captured the Caliph, who 
headed a sally from Baghdad (termed Baldacca) and was 
caught in an ambush. The poem then proceeds : 

As in at the gate we rode, behold, 

A tower that is called the Tower of Gold ! 

For there the Kalif had hidden his wealth, 

Heaped and hoarded and piled on high. 

Like sacks of wheat in a granary ; 

And thither the miser crept by stealth 

To feel of the gold that gave him health, 

And to gaze and gloat with his hungry eye 

On jewels that gleamed like a glow-worm's spark, 

Or the eyes of a panther in the dark. 

I said to the Kalif : " Thou art old, 

Thou hast no need of so much gold. 

Thou shouldst not have heaped and hidden it here, 

Till the breath of battle was hot and near. 

But have sown through the land these useless hoards 

To spring into shining blades of swords. 

And keep thine honour sweet and clear. 

These grains of gold are not grains of wheat ; 

These bars of silver thou canst not eat ; 

These jewels and pearls and precious stones 

Cannot cure the aches in thy bones. 

Nor keep the feet of Death one hour 

From climbing the stairways of thy tower ! " 

Then into his dungeon I locked the drone, 
And left him to feed there all alone 
In the honey-cells of his golden hive : 
Never a prayer, nor a cry, nor a groan 
Was heard from those massive walls of stone. 
Nor again was the Kalif seen alive ! ^ 

The sack of Baghdad lasted for a week, during which 
nearly one million of its inhabitants were massacred. 
Writing forty-four years after the event, the author of 
the Kitab-ul-Fakhri refers to it in the following words : 
"Then there took place such wholesale slaughter and 
unrestrained looting and excessive torture and mutilation 
as it is hard to hear spoken of even generally ; how think 

^ Kambalu or Xanadu is Khan-baligh or Pekin. 

^ I wonder whether Marco Polo's account of Baghdad inspired Longfellow to write 
this poem. 


(From MS. of Jami al-Tawarikh, circa A.D. 1315. Bibliotheque Nationnle. ) 

(F. R. Martin's Mhiiatnrc Painting in Persia, Bernard Quaritch. 1912. ) 


you, then, of its details ? There happened things I like 
not to mention ; therefore imagine what you will, but 
ask me not of the matter ! " Equally poignant, though 
more formal, is the threnody which is quoted as a heading 
to this chapter. 

The sackof Baghdad was a more terrible event in history 
than that of Merv or Herat, inasmuch as the city was the 
centre of the Moslem world ; and the irreparable injury 
to its civilization by the extinction of the Caliphate more 
than six centuries after the foundation of Islam, by the 
destruction of priceless literary and artistic treasures, and 
by the massacre of learned men of all classes, defies 
description. Moslem civilization was at that period the 
shining light in the world, and it has never recovered 
from the deadly blow. The awful nature of the cataclysm 
which set back the hands of the clock of progress among 
Moslem states, and thereby indirectly throughout the 
world, is diificult to realize and impossible to exaggerate. 

The Last 2' ears of Hulagu Khan and his Death^ a.h. 
dfi'}^ (1265). — Hulagu lived for seven years after the 
capture of Baghdad, by which his name is chiefly re- 
membered. During this period he ruled as undisputed 
monarch of Iran. He furthermore captured Aleppo and 
carried all before him in Syria, until in 1260, after his 
departure, the Mongol army was defeated by the Mame- 
lukes of Egypt. As Howorth points out, this defeat 
saved Egyp^ the last refuge of Moslem culture. 

Maragha in the north-west corner of modern Persia 
was chosen as his capital by the Mongol prince, and there, 
in the interests of astrology. In which he believed as 
foretelling the fate of princes, he built the famous ob- 
servatory, the ruins of which are still visible. 

During Hulagu' s latter years there was a revolt in 
Fars, but the Atabeg Seljuk Shah was captured at 
Kazerun, the half-way town between Bushire and Shiraz, 
and his execution speedily followed. In Northern Persia 
peace reigned because the land lay desolate and only a 
timid remnant was left. So Hulagu died in peace and 
was buried in the island of Tala, in Lake Urumia, where 
he had collected the almost incredible wealth of the 

176 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap.lvi 

Assassins and of the Caliphs. Shortly afterwards died 
Dokuz Khatun, his chief wife, who as a member of the 
Kerait tribe was a Nestorian Christian, and to whose 
influence it was due that Hulagu protected Christians. 
Indeed so far did this protection go that in a.d. 1260 
Hulagu received a letter from the Pope expressing the 
Sovereign PontifF*s joy at hearing that he was disposed 
to adopt the Catholic faith. 

Of the character of Hulagu little that is good is 
known. He was certainly as cruel and as false as others 
of his race, and he appears to have been addicted to 
pleasure. Had he found a strong Caliph ruling at 
Baghdad, it seems probable that his hordes, lacking a 
leader, would have been beaten back ; but he was fortunate 
in having to deal with weak and incapable men both at 
Alamut and at Baghdad, and it is mainly owing to this 
personal accident that Hulagu Khan, the founder of a 
dynasty in Persia, is known to fame as a conqueror who 
profoundly affected the course of the world's history. 




Brother David has arrived at our Court and presented letters sent through 
your envoys to the Holy Father and other Christian Kings. We note in them 
the love you bear to the Christian faith, and the resolution you have taken to 
relieve the Christians and the Holy Land from the enemies of Christianity. 
We pray Your Magnificence to carry out this holy project. We cannot at this 
time send you any certain news about the time of our arrival in the Holy 
Land, and of the march of the Christians, since at this moment nothing has 
been settled by the Sovereign Pontiff. — Ansnver of Ednx)ard I. of England to 
Abaga, dated z6th January 1274 (?i275). 

Abaga^A,u. 663-680(1265-1281). — Abaga Khan,^ the 
eldest son of Hulagu, was elected to succeed his father 
with ceremonies similar to those observed in the case of 
the Khakan, but he did not assume the full state of 
royalty until his election had received confirmation from 
Khubilay. One of his earliest acts was to marry a natural 
daughter of the Emperor Michael Paleologus, by name 
Mary, who, despatched as a bride to Hulagu, after hear- 
ing of his death continued her journey to the Mongol 

1 To make the relationship between the various Il-Khans clear, I append a table 
taken from The Mohamedan Dynasties. 

I. Hulagu. 

IL Abaga. 

IV. Arghun. 


V. Gaykhatu. 


VI. Baydu. 

III. Ahmad. 

VII. Ghazan. VIII. Uljaitu. Alafrang. 

IX. Abu Said. 

Sati Beg. Jahan-Timur. 






Court. She is generally known as Despina or " Princess." 
This alliance was a distinct sign of the times. 

The Invasion from Russia^ a.h. 664 (1266). — Soon 
after his accession the territories of Abaga were invaded 
by the Mongols of Russia. There was a desperately 
contested battle in the valley of the Kur, but the invaders 
ultimately retreated, and Abaga, in order to protect the 
northern entrance to his empire, dug beyond the Kur a 
great ditch which he fortified and garrisoned. 

Hayton^ King of Armenia and Bay bars of Egypt^ a.h. 
664-665 (1266- 1 267). — Abaga also adopted a defensive 
policy in the west, and ajffbrded practically no help to 
Hayton, the King of Armenia, who was left to make his 
own terms with Baybars, the Bahri Mameluke. The 
latter, after gaining successes over the Crusaders, from 
whom he captured Caesarea and other cities, invaded 
Cilicia, defeated an Armenian army, and captured the 
Armenian heir-apparent. Peace was made in the end by 
the surrender of various cities, to which Abaga took no 
exception, as all his resources were required to meet an 
invasion from the East. 

The Invasion ofKhorasan by Borak^ a.h. 668 (1270). — 
In A.D. 1265 Khubilay had given Transoxiana to Borak, 
the grandson of Chagatay, on condition that he attacked 
Kaydu, the grandson of Ogotay, who refused to recognize 
him as Khakan. Four years later these two princes made 
peace, and it was decided that Borak should be supported 
by Kaydu in an invasion of Khorasan. The troops of 
Borak advanced as far as Nishapur, which they plundered 
without serious opposition. But Abaga meanwhile was 
preparing for the campaign and he was soon marching 
eastwards along the trunk route which leads to 
Khorasan. Upon reaching the district of Badghiz, to the 
north of Herat, he sent envoys to Borak offering him 
the provinces of Ghazna and Kerman ; but these terms 
were refused. Abaga then by a clever ruse deluded the 
enemy into thinking that he had returned precipitately to 
defend his western frontiers, his object being to secure 
a decisive issue to the campaign. A desperate battle was 
fought near Herat. Abaga's left wing was broken and 


fled, but his right wing and centre bore down on the 
Chagatay Mongols and put them to flight. Borak fell 
from his horse and was nearly captured, but reached 
Bokhara in safety, and there became a convert to Islam. 
He then collected a force to punish those leaders who 
had deserted him, but he never recovered from the fall on 
the battle-field and died a few months after his defeat. 

Tusuf Shah I.^ Atabeg of Luristan, — Abaga did not follow 
up his victory, but returned immediately to Azerbaijan. 
While travelling in the neighbourhood of Kazvin he was 
suddenly attacked by a body of Daylamites. The Atabeg 
of Luristan, Yusuf Shah I., who had materially con- 
tributed to the defeat of Borak, prompdy fell on the 
assailants and saved the life of his suzerain, who to mark 
his gratitude added Khuzistan and three frontier districts 
of Luristan to the Atabeg's princedom. * 

The Devastation of Khwarazm and Transoxiana by 
Abaga^ a.h. 671 (1272). — After the death of Borak and 
the disturbances which ensued, Abaga despatched a force 
to ravage Khwarazm and Transoxiana, on the advice of 
his Vizier, who suggested this as an efi^ectual method of 
protecting Khorasan. The cities of Central Asia which 
had begun to recover from the Mongol cataclysm were 
once more ruined, and as Chuba and Kayan, the two 
sons of Algu, sacked Bokhara three years later, that 
unfortunate city lay desolate for seven years. 

The Battle of Abulistin^ a.h. 675 (1277). — To return 
to the west, the successful campaigns of Baybars at length 
compelled Abaga, much against his will, to send a 
Mongol army to defend his western provinces. Baybars, 
marching with his entire forces to invade Asia Minor, 
advanced from Aleppo northwards and found the Mongol 
army eleven thousand strong, supported by a body of 
Turks and a Georgian contingent, at Abulistin. The 
batde opened by a charge of the Mongol left wing on the 
Egyptian centre, which was forced back on to the right 
wing, while at the same time the Egyptian left wing was 
thrown into disorder. Baybars then ordered a charge by 
the whole line. The Mongols dismounted and poured 
in a storm of their deadly arrows, but the Moslems, 


exclaiming that it was a Holy War ensuring Paradise, 
swept them off the field, with a loss of more than half 
their numbers. 

After making a triumphal entry into Caesarea, Bay- 
bars, finding that the princes of Asia Minor dared not 
join him from fear of Abaga, retired to Damascus, where 
he died. Abaga, too late to retrieve the disaster, marched 
through Asia Minor, inflicting punishment on those who 
had failed in their duty with merciless severity, and upon 
his return to Persia sacrificed the Governor of Asia Minor 
to the resentment of the widows of his defeated soldiers. 

The Battle of Hims^ a.h. 680 (1281). — Burning to 
avenge the disaster of Abulistin, Abaga took advantage of 
a revolution in Egypt to invade Syria, and a great battle 
was fought near Hims, in the vicinity of the tomb of 
Khalid, the famous Moslem general. As at Abulistin, 
the battle began with a charge of the Mongol left wing, 
which, however, was repulsed. The Egyptians in turn 
charged and routed the Mongol left, but as an offstt to 
this success their own left was broken by the right 
Mongol wing, which pursued it to the gates of Hims. 
There the Mongols occupied themselves with looting 
while awaiting the main body, whose success they never 
questioned. But meanwhile the Mongol centre, under 
Mangu-Timur, the brother of Abaga, had broken and 
fled, and consequently the Egyptians remained masters 
of the field ; in the pursuit which ensued the Mongol 
losses were heavy.^ This was the last expedition under- 
taken by Abaga, who died in the following year. 

The Intercourse of Abaga with Europe, — Christendom, 
represented by the Pope, had, as already mentioned, 
made friendly overtures to the Mongols, whose protection 
of Christians had become known. At this period quite a 
correspondence ensued with Abaga, much of which has 
been preserved. Among the letters, that written by 
Edward I. of England is of special interest, and is given 
as a heading to this chapter. In pursuance of his policy, 

^ An interesting contemporary account of this battle, which makes the Mongol 
defeat seem less severe, is found in a letter from Joseph de Cancy, a Knight Hospitaller, 
to King Edward I. of England. A translation of this document and of the reply to it 
is given in Howorth's op. cit. vol. iii. p. 763 fF. 


the Pope in a.d. 1278 despatched a Franciscan Mission 
to Abaga and also to the Khakan, but it is beHeved that, 
although some measure of success rewarded their efforts 
in Persia, the Mission did not penetrate farther east. 

The Moslems were undoubtedly enemies both of the 
Mongols and of Christendom, and, as Hayton of Armenia 
and the Georgians were faithful allies to their suzerain, 
one at least of whose wives was a Christian, there is little 
doubt that the intercourse was prompted by a genuine 
desire to secure co-operation against the powers of Islam. 

The Journey of Marco Polo in Persia^ a.d. 1271. — One 
result, perhaps the only good one, of the Mongol con- 
quests was that when the descendants of the conquerors, 
growing more civilized, became anxious to repair the 
devastation wrought by their terrible ancestors, almost 
the whole of Asia was opened to the traveller. *We have 
examples in Carpini and Rubruquis of missions reach- 
ing Karacoram from distant countries in Asia and from 
Europe, and these missions must in every case have 
added considerably to mutual knowledge. In their wake 
followed the merchant-adventurers, greatest of whom was 
the illustrious Marco Polo,^ j lastly named " The Father of 
Geography." It is of special interest to note that the three 
great geographers of early days, namely, Herodotus who 
lived in the fifth century B.C., Chang Kien who lived in 
the second century b.c, and Marco Polo who lived in 
the thirteenth century of our era, all described Persia, the 
Highway of the Nations. Apart from any comparisons 
which may be instituted, the actual value of the informa- 
tion given is considerable, and in the case of the two 
European travellers enables us to present a vivid picture 
of the country. 

Marco Polo started on his famous journey across Asia 
to China from Lajazzo on the Gulf of Scanderun and 
entered Persia at or near Tabriz, where a Venetian colony 

^ The classic which deals with this subject is Yule's Travels of Marco Polo, one of 
the most fascinating works ever written. A third edition has been edited by Cordier, 
who is an authority on China, but not on Persia. In Ten Thousand Miles, etc., chap, xxiii. 
is devoted to the travels of Marco Polo in Persia, and in the yournal R.G.S. vol. xxvi. 
(1905), p. 462, I have discussed the question as to whether he visited Baghdad, as Yule 
and Cordier believed. My opinion that he did not is supported by Beazley in his op. cit. 
vol. iii. p. 49 fF. Marco Polo actually travelled with his father and uncle. 


had been established some years before. He states that 
its inhabitants " get their living by trade and handicrafts, 
for they weave many kinds of beautiful and valuable stuffs 
of silk and gold. The city has such a good position 
that merchandize is brought thither from India, Baudas 
(Baghdad) and Cremesor (the Garmsir or ' Hot Country ') 
and many other regions, and that attracts many Latin 
merchants, especially Genoese, to buy goods and transact 
other business there.'* Marco Polo incorrectly describes 
Tabriz as being in the province of Irak, and equally 
incorrectly supposes it to be outside Persia. " Persia," he 
says, " is a great country which was in old times very 
illustrious and powerful ; but now the Tartars have 
wasted and destroyed it." The next city mentioned is 
Saba, now Sava, from which, owing to the resemblance 
of its name to Sheba, the three Magi were supposed to 
have set out to worship the new-born Saviour.^ 

Marco Polo, believing that he had entered Persia at 
Sava, describes the country as divided into eight kingdoms, 
a wholly inaccurate division, which does not call for further 
notice. He refers to the fine horses and the " finest asses 
in the world," and goes on to say, " In the cities there 
are traders and artisans who live by their labour and 
crafts, weaving cloths of gold, and silk stuffs of sundry 
kinds. They have plenty of cotton produced in the 
country ; and abundance of wheat, barley, millet, panick, 
and wine, with fruits of all kinds." 

From Saba the Venetian visited Kashan, still famous 
for its velvets and silks, and from this important com- 
mercial centre he marched south-east to Yezd. From 
Yezd to Kerman there are two routes, by both of which I 
have travelled, and I have identified the more easterly of 
the two, via Bafk, as that traversed by the Venetian and 
his companions. Not only are there date palms to-day 
at Bafk, as mentioned by Marco Polo, but the altitude 
of the alternative route is too high for dates to grow 
there. Kerman, which was twice or even three times 
visited, is described at greater length than any other city 

Isaiah Ix. 6 runs, " The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of 
Midian and Ephah j all they from Sheba shall come : they shall bring gold and incense j 
and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord." 




in Persia. Mention is made of its turquoises and steel, 
which are not worked to-day. But the " exquisite needle- 
work in the embroidery of silk stuffs in dijiferent colours, 
with figures of beasts and birds, trees and flowers, and a 
variety of other patterns,** is still to be bought, modern 
Kerman being noted for its embroidered shawls. 

From Kerman to Camadi in the Jiruft valley Yule was 
unable to identify the road followed by the Venetian, the 
entire district having been a blank on the map until in 
1895 I discovered Marco's route, which ran across the 
elevated uplands of Sardu to the Sarbizan Pass, and thence 
descended rapidly through Dilfard to the ancient city of 
Jiruft. Marco gives an accurate description of this section 
in these words : " When you have ridden these seven days 
over a plain country, you come to a great mountain ; and 
when you have got to the top of the pass, you find a great 
descent which occupies some two days to go down. . . . 
After you have ridden downhill those two days, you find 
yourself in a vast plain, and at the beginning thereof there 
is a city called Camadi, which formerly was a great and 
noble place, but now is of little consequence." In descend- 
ing this valley his party was attacked by robbers and 
barely escaped. He then crossed the low ranges and 
emerged on to the plain and port of Hormuz or Ormuz 
(referred to in Chapter LXIV.), where " Merchants came 
from India with ships loaded with spicery and precious 
stones, pearls, cloths of silk and gold, elephants' teeth, 
and many other wares, which they sell to the merchants of 
Hormuz." For some reason, either because of the unsea- 
worthy ships, " wretched affairs " as Marco terms them, 
or owing to a breakdown in health, the traveller returned 
by another road, through either Sirjan or Urzu, to 
Kerman, but the data given are scanty. 

From Kerman Marco marched north to Cobinan, 
which still retains its name as Kubanan. There he was 
on the southern edge of the Lut, and I will again quote : 
" When you depart from this city of Cobinan, you find 
yourself again in a Desert of surpassing aridity, which 
lasts for some eight days ; here are neither fruits nor 
trees to be seen, and what water there is is bitter and 


bad, so that you have to carry both food and water. . . . 
At the end of those eight days you arrive at a Province 
which is called Tonocain." The word Tonocain is 
obviously Tun va Kain, but the place on the map directly 
to the north is Tabas, and it seemed reasonable to suppose 
that the Venetian made for it. However, my inquiries 
at that town in 1905 showed that there was no caravan 
route from Kubanan, and that all caravans travelled via 
Chah Kuru to Naiband and Tun.^ Consequently, 
although it would be unwise to be dogmatic, I favour 
the identification of this latter route, by which I traversed 
the Lut from north to south in 1893. 

After stating that Tonocain " has a good many towns 
and villages," Marco describes the oriental plane or Arbre 
Sol, "which we Christians term^^r^r^ Sec'' I have made 
special reference to the treelessness of Persia, and it is 
on this account that trees growing without irrigation water 
are regarded as sacred. The custom is to make a vow at 
such a tree that, if one's wish be fulfilled, a sheep will be 
brought and sacrificed beneath it ; in token of the vow a 
strip of the clothing is torn off and tied to the tree, which 
thus presents a curious appearance. 

Tun was in the province of Kuhistan, and it has been 
mentioned in the previous chapter as having been sacked 
by the generals of Hulagu Khan at the opening of the 
campaign against the Ismailis. It is probably on this 
account that, after a reference to its " surpassingly beauti- 
ful women," Marco gives the account of the " Old Man 
of the Mountain," which has been quoted in Chapter LII. 
Possibly owing to a lacuna in the manuscript, no details 
are given of the illustrious Venetian's onward journey, 
which probably ran by Nishapur and Sarakhs, and the 
next place mentioned is Sapurgan or Shibrkan, in Afghan 
Turkestan. In any case Marco had now passed beyond 
the limits of modern Iran, and for the time being we may 
bid him farewell. 

Ahmad^ a.h. 680-683 (1281-1284). — The death of 
Abaga gave rise to many intrigues, and ultimately Tagudar 
Oghlu, a brother of the deceased monarch, was elected to 

^ Journal R.G.S. vol. xxvi. (1905). 



succeed to the throne, Arghun, the eldest son of Abaga, 
being passed over. Tagudar, who had been baptized a 
Christian under the name of Nicolas, proclaimed himself 
a Moslem under the name of Ahmad upon his accession, 
and despatched an embassy to Kalaun of Egypt to announce 
the fact and to make profession of his friendly intentions. 
These were reciprocated by the Mameluke sovereign, who, 
however, forced the Mongol ambassadors to travel at 
night, and was careful not to allow them to have any 
contact with his subjects. 

Arghun, being dissatisfied with the results of the 
election, rebelled, and being defeated took refuge in the 
natural fortress of Kalat-i-Nadiri, where the entrance 
towards the west is still known as Darband-i-Arghun, or 
Argawan. He was, however, induced to submit to his 
uncle, who received him kindly but kept him* in confine- 
ment. Meanwhile a strong party in the army, which 
resented Ahmad's conversion to Islam and the favour 
shown to Moslems, conspired to rescue the young Prince. 
The army declared for the latter and Ahmad fled, but was 
captured and killed by having his back broken. 

The Reign of Arghun^ a.h. 683-690 (i 284-1 291). — 
The reign of Arghun was not eventful, and for some years 
there was nothing worthy of record except a conspiracy 
formed by Boukai, who had been instrumental in rescuing 
him from his uncle's hands and had been given almost 
supreme power. This plot was revealed, and Boukai and 
his family with the other conspirators were put to death. 
The execution caused a rebellion in Khorasan, which was 
the appanage of Ghazan, son of Arghun, and Ghazan's 
general rebelled from fear of being put to death as a 
friend of the late conspirator. He attacked Ghazan, who 
was encamped on the banks of the Kashaf Rud, the river 
of Tus and of Meshed, but the Prince succeeded in 
escaping, only, however, to be defeated later on near Tus. 
Ghazan rallied his forces at Kalposh near Nardin, and 
having received strong reinforcements, was able to drive 
the rebel general out of Persia. 

Arghun during his short reign evinced much favour 
towards Christians, and made proposals in 1289, and again 


two years later, to the powers of Christendom for a joint 
attack on the Moslems in the Holy Land ; but the fall 
of Acre in 1291 sealed the fate of European domination 
in Syria, which, after two centuries of vicissitude, ceased 
to exist. As in the case of his predecessor, letters were 
exchanged, hopes were excited, and little was actually 


John de Monte Corvino, — The leading missionary of 
the age was John de Monte Corvino, a Franciscan friar 
who was working in the Levant at this period, and who 
reported to the Pope his high hopes of the conversion of 
Arghun. Consequently he was despatched with many, 
letters, and, passing through Tabriz, proceeded to distant 
China, where he founded a flourishing church. 

Gaykhatu^ A,H, 690-694 {i2()i-i2()S\and BaydUyA.w, 
694 (1295). — Upon the death of Arghun the generals who 
had usurped the power sent envoys to Ghazan his son, 
to Gaykhatu his brother, and to Baydu his cousin. Their 
first decision was to offer the succession to Gaykhatu. A 
few days later, however, they regretted their choice and 
decided to raise Baydu to the throne, but being prudent 
he declined the offer and Gaykhatu was thereupon elected. 
He was lavish in his expenditure, and when the treasury 
was empty he attempted, in imitation of Khubilay, to 
issue bank-notes ; but the measure was so unpopular 
that it was speedily cancelled. 

The folly of Gaykhatu and his unbridled excesses of 
every description alienated the Mongol generals, and 
when Baydu, who had been struck and insulted by his 
cousin, rebelled, the unhappy monarch was deserted with 
sinister suddenness and strangled. Nor was Baydu, his 
successor, more fortunate, as he held the throne for less 
than a year and was in turn deserted by his generals in 
favour of Ghazan, by whose orders he was put to death. 
With Baydu ended the period of the heathen Il-Khans. 
It is specially noteworthy that, whereas only twelve years 
before Ahmad had lost his throne partly, at any rate, 
owing to his zeal for Islam, the deposition and death of 
Baydu were due mainly to his hostility to that religion 
and to his predilection for Christianity. 


The Return of Marco Pok to Persia^ a.d. 1294. — 
Arghun had despatched an embassy to Khubilay to ask 
for the hand of a Princess of the Royal House, and in 
A.D. 1292 Marco Polo was entrusted with the perilous 
dut}" of escorting the lady Kokachin " moult bele dame et 
avenant" from China to Persia. Khubilay, upon dis- 
missing the Venetian, gave him " two golden Tablets of 
Authority. He charged him also with messages to the 
King of France, the King of England, the King of Spain, 
and the other Kings of Christendom.'* 

The land route being rejected as too fatiguing, the 
intrepid Venetian sailed from China with a well-equipped 
squadron of thirteen ships and a large retinue ; but 
during the two years which the voyage occupied almost 
every one died, " so that only eight survived.'* Upon 
reaching Hormuz, in a.d. 1294, Marco heard t)f the death 
of Arghun, and, having reported his arrival to Gaykhatu, 
was instructed to take the Princess to Ghazan Khan, who 
was at this time in Kuhistan. It is therefore probable 
that he followed the same route as he originally took 
from Hormuz to Tun, and from the camp of Ghazan to 
Tabriz he presumably followed the trunk route which 
skirts the Elburz. At the capital he was treated with 
great distinction ; and his epoch-making journey, or 
series of journeys, was brought to a happy conclusion 
in A.D. 1295 or the following year, when, after an absence 
of a quarter of a century, the way-weary Venetian reached 
his home. 




That which was most admirable was that in such a small body more fine 
qualities existed than could be imagined. Among his soldiers scarcely one 
could be found as small and as ugly in face as he was, but yet he surpassed 
them all in virtue and integrity. — Hay ton of Armenia on Ghazan Khan. 

The Accession of Ghazan^ a.h. 694 (1295). — Ghazan 
upon his accession proclaimed himself a Moslem and on 
this account repudiated the suzerainty of the Khakans, 
who were, of course, heathen. To mark this step, which 
was, in fact, the opening of a new period, he substituted 
the Moslem confession of faith on his coins for the name 
and titles of the Khakan. Furthermore, with the zeal 
of a convert, he destroyed Christian, Jewish, and pagan 
temples alike, until the King of Armenia interceded with 
him, after which he demolished only the temples of the 

The earlier part of his short reign of nine years was 
filled with rebellions and disturbances, the invasion of 
Khorasan from Transoxiana falling into the latter category. 
The two chief supporters of Ghazan were Togatchar and 
Noruz, but he suspected their loyalty and determined to 
put them to death. The execution of the former was 
accomplished by treachery. Noruz, on the other hand, 
escaped and took refuge with Fakhr-u-Din, the Kart 
ruler of Herat ; but he was surrendered to the repre- 
sentative of Ghazan and immediately executed. Many 
other chiefs and officials were put to death during this 



His First Syrian Campaign^ a.h. 699 (1299). — After 
successfully putting down these rebellions, which the 
fate of recent II -Khans had encouraged, Ghazan took 
advantage of the weakness of the Mameluke empire, which 
was suffering from internal troubles, and invaded Syria. 
He crossed the Euphrates with an army ninety thousand 
strong and moved on Aleppo ; instead of besieging it, 
however, he marched to meet the Egyptian army. The 
decisive battle was fought at Hims, where formerly the 
Mongol arms had met with disaster. On this occasion 
the centre under Ghazan was nearly broken by the charge 
of the heavily^ armed Mamelukes, but the Il-Khan dis- 
mounted his men, who used their horses as a rampart 
from behind which they kept up a heavy fire of arrows. 
These tactics threw the Mamelukes into disorder owing 
to the numbers of their horses that were killedj and when 
the Mongol wings had repulsed the Egyptians by the 
same device, a general advance, headed by the deadly 
archers on foot, completed the victory. 

The change that Islam had made in the customs of 
the Mongols is clearly seen by Ghazan's treatment of 
Damascus. He received the submission of the city and 
issued a proclamation with many quotations from the 
Koran, to the effect that he had come to deliver Syria 
from a reprobate monarch and that no harm would be 
done to any one. Moreover, he kept the soldiery out of 
the city and did not even allow the gardens for which the 
place is famous to be damaged. Nevertheless, in spite of 
Ghazan's humane intentions, Damascus did not escape 
severe suffering, owing mainly to the hatred of the 
Il-Khan's Armenian allies and the difficulty of restraining 
troops accustomed to plunder. After remaining until 
the contribution fixed by him had been fully paid, Ghazan 
marched back across the Euphrates, leaving a force to 
hold his conquests ; but on the organization of a fresh 
army at Cairo the Mongols retreated, and Syria reverted 
to its Egyptian masters. 

The Raiding of Southern Persia from Transoxiana. — 
During the absence of Ghazan in Syria, Kutlugh Shah, 
the Chagatay Prince of Transoxiana, sent a force of ten 


thousand men to raid Southern Persia. The province of 
Kerman lay desolate, as Mahmud Shah, its drunken prince, 
had revolted and the troops of Ghazan had been quartered 
on it for a year ; indeed, so depopulated was the country 
that only one thousand Afghans were met with, who were 
attacked and robbed of their families and possessions. 
At Shiraz there was no garrison to defend the city, but 
the inhabitants armed themselves, and for once the well- 
worn ruse of an ambuscade failed to lure them from 
the security of their walls. Consequently no attack was 
attempted on the capital of Fars, and the raiders, plunging 
into the " Hot Country " at Kazerun, looted the nomads 
of the province, and entered Khuzistan. The force 
finally assembled at Hormuz in Khuzistan for the return 
march, but being encumbered with thousands of animals 
they suffered severe losses, and were obliged to leave 
behind all their booty. 

The Defeat of the Mongols in Syria^ a.m. 702 (1303). — 
In A.H. 700 (1301) Ghazan made a second incursion into 
Syria, but was foiled by the bad weather and retired after 
sustaining heavy losses in his transport. Two years later 
he once again crossed the Euphrates, but on this occasion, 
after securing a minor success, he retired to watch events 
from the left bank of the Tigris. Kutlugh Shah, who 
commanded his army fifty thousand strong, met the 
Egyptian army in the vicinity of Damascus. This battle 
also was chequered, the right wing of the Egyptians 
giving way and causing a panic in Damascus, while the 
left wing stood firm, and compelled the invaders to retire 
to the hills for the night. In the morning the battle was 
renewed, with the result that the Mongols, who were 
suflFering from lack of water, attempted to break through 
and flee, and being permitted to do so were followed up 
and cut to pieces. 

The Relations of Ghazan with Byzantium and the Western 
Powers. — In a.h. 702 (1302) Ghazan received an embassy 
from Andronicus the Elder, who oflFered him the hand of 
a Greek princess and begged that the Turks of Asia 
Minor might be ordered to cease their raids into his 
territories. Little did the Emperor realize that these 







same Turks, whose rise dates from this period, were 
destined to capture Byzantium and to hold in subjection 
provinces of Europe. 

With the Western states of Europe Ghazan maintained 
the friendly relations which he had inherited, and letters 
similar in tenor to those already mentioned are preserved 
in the archives of various powers. The fact that Egypt, 
the representative Moslem power, was his chief enemy, 
strengthened the belief that at heart he was a Christian, 
or, at any rate, had Christian sympathies. During his 
reign Edward I. of England accredited Geoffrey de 
Langley, who was accompanied by two esquires, to the 
Persian Court. The original roll of their itinerary is 
extant,^ and also an account of their expenditure, which 
included purchases of silver plate, fur pelisses, and carpets. 
They travelled by way of Genoa to Trebizond and Tabriz, 
and returned home with a leopard in a cage. No other 
account of their mission has been preserved. 

His Reforms, — When Ghazan Khan came to the 
throne, he found the revenue so corruptly administered 
that practically nothing reached the central government, 
with the result that he was unable to give pay, much less 
presents, to his army. At the same time the peasantry 
were so ground down by illegal and semi-illegal exactions 
that they were deserting their villages, and whenever an 
official appeared they took refuge in underground hiding- 
places. To remove this fundamental abuse a survey of 
all property was instituted, and on this a new system of 
taxation was based, each village paying its taxes in two 
instalments and knowing exactly what the amount was. 
All assignations on revenue — a cause of endless corrup- 
tion — and all other irregular taxes or tolls were forbidden 
on pain of death, and in order to prevent the tax-collectors 
from deceiving the peasantry each village was obliged to 
post a copy of the order, with details of its taxes, outside 
the mosque. Another abuse was that all government 
officials and other great personages not only used the 
government post-horses but preyed on the country, 
quartering themselves and their large suites in the towns 

^ Archaeological Journal., vol. viii. pp. 49-50. 


and villages, and taking everything they and their servants 
desired without payment. It had also become customary 
to send an enormous number of couriers to and from the 
court, all of whom seized supplies and even transport 
when necessary, with the result that the population had 
disappeared from the vicinity of the main roads. This 
abuse Ghazan remedied, in the first place by instituting 
a private postal service of horses, which was not allowed 
to be used by any one except the monarch's special 
couriers. He subsequently abolished the old service, 
and by rigorously suppressing the use of couriers and 
by other means put an end to the extortions. He also 
purified and organized the administration of justice, 
encouraged agriculture, founded military fiefs, set up a 
standard of weights and measures, and worked by every 
means for the prosperity of the down-trodden peasantry. 

His Buildings and Endowments. — His capital, Tabriz, 
Ghazan adorned with buildings which surpassed in 
splendour the famous tomb of Sultan Sanjar at Merv. 
Building on the same lines, he erected a magnificent 
mausoleum, together with an equally magnificent mosque, 
two colleges, a hospital, a library, and an observatory. 
The most celebrated professors and scientific men of the 
age were appointed with liberal salaries to staff these 
foundations, and lands were assigned to them in per- 
petuity, the produce of which provided the salaries and 
upkeep. Nor were the students forgotten ; indeed the 
entire scheme was thought out with extraordinary 
thoroughness, and it is to be regretted that a man of 
such administrative genius was shortly afterwards suc- 
ceeded by puppet -khans under whom Persia relapsed 
into anarchy. 

Uljaitu, A.H. 703-716 (1304-1316). — The successor 
of the great Il-Khan was his brother Mohamed Khuda- 
banda, generally known by his title of Uljaitu.^ Upon 
hearing of the death of Ghazan he kept the intelligence 

^ Uljaitu signifies "Fortunate." The Sultan was born when his mother was 
traversing the desert which lies between Merv and Sarakhs. Her attendants, being 
obliged to halt, were afraid that the party would die of thirst, but upon the birth of 
the infant a heavy shower fell, and it was in commemoration of this that he received 
his title. 

Lviii GHAZAN KHAN 193 

a secret until he had surprised and killed a possible com- 
petitor for the throne in the person of Alafrang, son of 
Gaykhatu, together with his supporters. The third son of 
Arghun Khan, he had been brought up by his mother as a 
Christian and baptized under the name of Nicolas, but 
through the influence of his wife he had been converted to 
Islam. He loved to listen to religious discussions, and was 
once shocked by hearing it stated that Islam allowed 
marriage with a mother, a sister, or a daughter. His 
adverse impression was strengthened by a violent thunder- 
storm during which some members of his court were 
killed and which was interpreted as a sign that heaven 
was angry at his adoption of Islam. For a while the 
Sultan thought of returning to the old Mongol beliefs, 
but, visiting the tomb of Ali, he there dreamed a dream 
as a result of which he finally embraced the Shia tenets. 

Among other events of this reign was an invasion 
of Gilan, hitherto independent, which cost the Mongols 
thousands of lives ; there was also a raid into Khorasan 
by the Chagatay Mongols, which was beaten off. Uljaitu, 
like his predecessors, corresponded with the sovereigns of 
Western Europe, and it is interesting to note that they 
believed him to be an enemy of Islam.^ 

Ahu Saidy a.h. ^16-']^^ (i3i^-i335)- — ^^^ Said, the 
son of Khudabanda, was only a boy of twelve when he 
succeeded to the throne, although he had been the 
nominal ruler of Khorasan, which to some extent had 
become the appanage of the heir-apparent. His reign 
was marked by disputes of the great nobles, who during 
his minority contended for power. Chief among them 
was Amir Chupan, the Regent, who was married to a 
sister of the monarch and whose power overshadowed 
the throne. The revolt of his son, whom he captured 
and brought a prisoner to Sultania (the city founded by 
Khudabanda), only strengthened his position, which he 
might have retained but for the fact that Abu Said fell 
in love with his daughter, Baghdad Khatun^ whom he 

1 This appears from a letter of Edward II., dated Northampton, October i6, 1307, 
in which the monarch states that the English King would employ all his efforts " to 
extirpate the abominable sect of Mchamed." 

■^ Khatun signifies *' lady." 

VOL. ri o 


had married to a Mongol noble. His refusal to hand 
over his daughter weighed on the mind of the enamoured 
monarch, who began to hate Chupan so intensely that 
in self-defence the Amir was forced to rebel, and paid 
the penalty with his life. Nothing more during this 
reign merits notice, and Abu Said, dying childless, left 
the kingdom a prey to disorder. 

The Puppet Il-Khans. — The remaining Il-Khans were 
puppets set up by rival generals, and their importance 
was so small that they may suitably be relegated to a list 
taken from The Mohamedan Dynasties. 

Arpa A.H. 736 (1335). 

Musa 73^ (I336)' 

Rival Khans 

D .ex. fMohamed 736-8 (1336-8). 

Puppets of the Xugha-Timur 739-52 {mUi)- 

Jalayr Amir |j,hLTimur Jg-Ji Ul9-4 

Puppets of the 
Chupani Amirs 

'Sati-Beg (princess) 739-40 (i339)- 
Sulayman 740-4 (1339-43)' 

Noshirwan 745 (l344)- 

The Jalayr Dy nasty ^ a.h. 736-814 (1336-1411). — In 
the struggle for power which occurred upon the disinte- 
gration of the Empire of the Il-Khans the most important 
family was that of Amir Husayn Jalayr, known also as 
the Ilkhanian. Under Shaykh Hasan Buzurg, or " the 
Great," who had set up three puppets given in the list 
above, and had subsequently assumed sovereign functions 
himself, Irak was taken possession of and Baghdad once 
again became a capital. His son Oways, on his succession 
in A.H. 757 (1356), seized Azerbaijan, which had been 
annexed by the Golden Horde, and a few years later added 
Mosul and Diarbekr to the newly founded kingdom. 
Oways was succeeded by Husayn, who fought the 
Muzaffar dynasty of Southern Persia and the Kara 
Kuyunlu, or " Black Sheep '* Turkoman, to the west. 
Upon his death in a.h. 784 (1382), he bequeathed 
Azerbaijan and Irak to Sultan Ahmad, on whom fell the 
brunt of the invasion of Timur. Unable to resist the 





Lviii GHAZAN KHAN 195 

World Conqueror he fled to Egypt and spent the rest 
of his life in seeking to regain and hold his dominions. 
In A.H. 813 (1410) he had recovered Baghdad, but when 
invading Azerbaijan he was defeated by the Kara Kuyunlu, 
who succeeded this undistinguished dynasty. 

The Muzaffarids^ a.h. 713-795 (1313-1393)- — The 
founder of the Southern Persian dynasty was a certain 
Amir MuzaiFar, who was appointed Governor of Maybud, 
a small town to the north-west of Yezd. His son in 
A.H. 713 (1313) was appointed Governor of Yezd and 
Fars by Abu Said, and so increased his influence by 
marrying Kutlugh Turkan, the only daughter of Shah 
Jahan of the Kutlugh Khans of Kerman, that in a.h. 
741 (1340) he obtained possession of that province. In 
A.H. 754 (1353), after a series of campaigns fought with 
Abu Ishak, Inju, he annexed Fars, and three years later 
Isfahan. Finding the conditions favourable, this successful 
warrior led his army to Tabriz, but when he was apparently 
at the zenith of his fame his sons conspired against him 
and blinded him. His successors quarrelled among 
themselves and merit litde notice, except that Shah Shuja 
is known to fame as the patron of Hafiz. Sultan Ahmad, 
the Imad-u-Din, is well known at Kerman as the founder 
of the Pa Minar mosque. In his honour, too, was carved 
the beautiful stone pulpit which I discovered at Kala-i-Sang, 
the old capital of the province. The family submitted to 
Tamerlane, but rebelled, and in a desperate charge Shah 
Mansur nearly succeeded in killing the Great Conqueror 
himself, as will be seen in the following chapter. On this 
account the dynasty was exterminated.^ 

The Karts of Herat^ a.h. 643-791 (1245-1389). — To 
complete the survey of petty dynasties mention must be 
made of the Kart race of Ghor, which held Herat under 
the Mongols from the middle of the thirteenth century 
of our era. As mentioned above, Fakhr-u-Din gained 
the favour of Ghazan by handing over Noruz, and the 
dynasty, partly owing to the possession of an inaccessible 
fort, maintained itself until a few years after the conquest 
of Herat by Timur in a.h. 783 (138 1). 

1 This dynasty is dealt with at greater length in Ten Thousand Miles, etc., p. 63. 




And when I cloathed myself In the robe of empire, I shut my eyes to 
safety, and to the repose which is found on the bed of ease. And from the 
twelfth year of my age I travelled over countries, and combated difficulties, 
and formed enterprises and vanquished armies, and I hazarded my person in 
the hour of danger j until in the end I vanquished kingdoms and empires, and 
established the glory of my name. — From The Institutes of Timur. 

Transoxtana in the Middle of the Fourteenth Century. — 
The house of Chagatay which ruled Central Asia ^ was the 
least distinguished of the dynasties founded by Chengiz 
Khan. In the period covered by the preceding chapter 
an occasional raid into Khorasan constituted all its history 
so far as Persia was concerned, and during much of the 
time Transoxiana was in a state of anarchy. In a.h. 
746 (1345) Kazan Khan, the Western Chagatay ruler, 
provoked a rebellion by his cruelty, the nobles uniting 
under a certain Amir Kazghan to dethrone him, a design 
in which they were successful the following year. Amir 
Kazghan after this revolution ruled through puppet 
Khans until his death in a.h. 759 (1357) and was 
succeeded by his son Abdulla. Sarai was deserted 
through the influence of Sali, the new Vizier, and Samar- 
cand again became the capital of an empire. Becoming 
enamoured of the wife of the puppet Khan, Abdulla put 
him to death and set up Timur Shah Oghlan in his stead. 

^ The authorities for this chapter include A History of Persia^ by Sir John Malcolm j 
Gcichichte des Osmanischen Reic/ies, by Joseph von Hammer ; A History of the Moghuls of 
Central Asia (the Tarikh-i-Rashidi), by Ney Elias and Denison Ross j A History of 
Bokhara, by A. Vamb6ry ; the Zafar Nama of Sharaf-u-Din Ali Yezdi, and the Institutes 
of Timur (ed. Davy and White). 



This act caused a revolt, which was headed by an Amir 
named Bayan Selduz and by Haji^ Barks, of Kesh (the 
modern Shahr-i-Sabz, to the south of Samarcand), and the 
united forces of the Amirs defeated AbduUa, who fled 
across the Oxus and disappeared from the scene. The 
government was now administered by the victors, but the 
incapacity of Bayan Selduz, who was a hopeless drunkard, 
broke up the empire into a number of petty states, and 
Haji Barlas was not able to do more than maintain himself 
at Kesh. 

The Governor of Mongolia, or Jatah, at this period was 
Tughluk Timur Khan, who, on seeing the state of anarchy 
into which Transoxiana had fallen, determined to annex 
it. He started on an expedition for this purpose in a.h. 
761 (1360) and marched on Kesh ; Haji Barlas, deem- 
ing the odds too great, attempted no defence and fled 
to Khorasan, where he was afterwards killed by brigands. 

The Fame of Tamerlane, — Tamerlane has impressed 
Europe more than any other Asiatic conqueror. Chengiz 
Khan, a century and a half earlier, was not brought into 
direct contact with the Near East or with Europe, but con- 
quered lands remote from the ken of the West, and it 
was not until after his death that his descendants subdued 
Russia to the north and Mesopotamia to the south. 
Tamerlane, on the other hand, overran Persia and Meso- 
potamia, and subsequently entered Russia and attacked 
the Kipchaks of the lower Volga valley ; he also plundered 
Moscow. He then turned his eyes towards India, the 
reputed treasure-house of the world, which he invaded. 
Here he passed the limits both of Alexander the Great 
and of Chengiz Khan, the former having halted on the 
Beas, while the latter barely crossed the Indus. West- 
wards, too, he took Damascus and weakened the power 
of the Mamelukes, and finally defeated and captured 
Sultan Bayazid L of Turkey on the field of Angora. 
No Asiatic conqueror in historical times has performed 
such feats of arms as these, and consequently none is 
entitled to the fame of Tamerlane. 

1 Haji signifies a man who has performed the pilgrimage to Mecca : it is a title of 
honour in the Moslem world. 


His Birth in a.h. 736 (1335) and his Early Years, — 
The historians of Tamerlane trace his descent from a 
certain Karachar Khan, a vizier in the service of Chagatay, 
who was connected with his master's family. This 
genealogy is disputed, but its correctness is of little 
importance. We know that he was the son of Amir 
Turghay, chief of the Gurkan branch of the Barlas, a 
noble Turkish tribe, and nephew of Haji Barlas. From an 
early age he showed unusual promise both in the council 
chamber and in the field, where he served with distinction 
under Amir Kazghan, notably in Khorasan. He was also 
remarkable for his skill and endurance in the pursuit of 
game, resembling in this respect Alexander the Great. 

His Submission to Tughluk Timur Khan. — Tamerlane, 
by the death of his father, had recently become the head of 
his family at the time of the flight of Haji Barlas, and 
this event proved a crisis in the life of the young Amir. 
As the Tarikh-i-Rashidi runs : 

His father was dead and his uncle had fled ; 

The people were exposed to the ravages of a stranger. 

Its enemies had placed the tribe in danger : 

It was become as an eagle without wings or feathers. 

To save the situation, Tamerlane decided to tender 
his submission to Tughluk Timur Khan, by whom he 
was received with much distinction and appointed Governor 
of Transoxiana. In the following year the Khan of Jatah 
obtained possession of Samarcand and appointed his son 
Khoja Ilias Oghlan to the governorship of Transoxiana 
with the young Tamerlane as his councillor, although 
a certain Amir Begjit was given the supreme authority. 
Intrigues naturally followed, with the result that Tamer- 
lane was obliged to flee from Samarcand. 

His Early Wanderings. — Being pursued, he turned on 
his enemies and defeated them. Then with but a handful 
of men he sought out his brother-in-law Amir Husayn, 
the grandson of Amir Kazghan, who had recently been 
beaten by Tughluk Timur and was wandering in the 
desert. Together the two adventurers proceeded to 
Khiva, where the Governor attempted to seize them by 

^Froin F. R. Martin's Miniature Fa in Hup of Persia, etc.) 


treachery, and they were forced to retire to the desert for 
protection. There they led a hfe of risk and hardship, 
Tamerlane and his wife being on one occasion imprisoned 
by some Turkoman and escaping with difficulty. 

Tamerlane or " Timur the LameT — It was during this 
period that Timur acquired in Sistan his soubriquet of 
" the Lame '* ; and details of the story have been pre- 
served. In A.H. 764 (1363)5 when wandering in Southern 
Afghanistan, he received an appeal for help from Jalal-u- 
Din Mahmud, the Keiani ^ Prince of Sistan, whose subjects 
had rebelled. Tamerlane and Amir Husayn immedi- 
ately accepted the invitation, and with the aid of their 
veterans three out of seven forts held by the rebels were 
captured. The latter then submitted to their Prince, 
pointing out that if Tamerlane were allowed to capture 
the other forts, Sistan would lie at his mercy. Persuaded 
by these weighty arguments, Jalal-u-Din collected a force 
with which he attacked his allies, and although Tamerlane 
succeeded in breaking the centre of the Sistan army, he 
received two arrow wounds, one in his arm and the other 
in his foot, which was thus permanently lamed. From 
this he became known as Timur lang^ or " the lame," two 
words which in European languages have been merged 
in the euphonious form of Tamerlane.^ The word Timur 
signifies iron. 

The Rallying of his Relations and Adherents, — In Timur's 
Institutes'^ there is a delightful account of how relations 
and adherents rallied to his standard during this period. 
It deserves quotation, if only as revealing the character 
of the great adventurer. He writes : " I had not yet 
rested from my devotions, when a number of people 
appeared afar off ; and they were passing along in a line 
with the hill. And I mounted my horse, and I came 
behind them, that I might know their condition, and 
what men they were. They were, in all, seventy horsemen ; 
and I asked of them saying, ' Warriors, who are ye ? ' and 

1 Vide Chapter XII. 

'-* Timur '3 Memoirs {Malfuzat) and Institutes {Tuzukat) are works the genuineness 
of which is not universally accepted. Still there is much internal evidence that they 
were written by the Great Tartar himself, and they are of considerable value and of 
great interest as showing his ideals and personality. 


they answered unto me, ' We are the servants of Amir 
Timur, and we wander in search of him ; and lo ! we 
find him not.' And I said unto them, ' I also am one of 
the servants of the Amir. How say ye, if I be your 
guide, and conduct you unto him ? ' When their eyes 
fell upon me, they were overwhelmed with joy ; and they 
alighted from their horses, and they came, and they 
kneeled and they kissed my stirrup. I also dismounted 
and took each of them in my arms. And I put my 
turban over the head of Toghluk Khoja ; and my girdle, 
which was very rich in jewels, and wrought with gold, I 
bound on the loins of Amir Sayf-u-Din ; and I clothed 
Tukub Bahadur with my cloak. And they wept, and I 
wept also. When the hour of prayer was arrived, we 
prayed together." 

The Campaigns with Khoja Ilias. — After their opera- 
tions in Sistan the two companions in arms proceeded 
to Kunduz, and in a.h. 765 (1363) they won a battle 
against the forces of Jatah by a demonstration against the 
rear of the enemy and by lighting an enormous number 
of fires, which struck panic among them. After the fight 
Tamerlane regained possession of Kesh, the inhabitants 
of the district flocking to his standard in thousands. At 
this juncture Tughluk Timur died, and Khoja Ilias, on 
his way home to ascend the throne, was attacked by the 
two Amirs, who gained a victory after a hard contest 
and took Samarcand. But in the following year, a.h. 766 
(i365)> Khoja Ilias defeated the two allies and besieged 
Samarcand, from which, however, he was forced to with- 
draw owing to heavy losses among his horses. 

The Struggle between Tamerlane and Amir Husayn, a.h. 
767-771 (1365-T369).— After the first success over the 
Amirs of Jatah the two victors, probably owing to the 
intense respect which still existed for the family of 
Chengiz Khan, set up a puppet in the person of Kabil 
Shah Oghlan, but retained the power in their own hands. 
Their friendship, which had been welded in the furnace 
of adversity, could not withstand the strain of success, 
and open hostilities broke out, in which Tamerlane was 
at first unsuccessful. His fortunes were restored by a 



most brilliant feat of arms, which deserves to be recorded 
as an illustration of the amazing enterprise and initiative 
of the famous conqueror. Karshi, a town only a few 
miles to the south-west of Kesh, had been captured by 
his rival, and he felt bound in honour to recover it. 
His forces were too small to assault it openly, and Amir 
Husayn was in the neighbourhood with an army too 
powerful to be attacked. Tamerlane, giving out that 
he had departed to Khorasan, crossed the Oxus. When 
he was satisfied that his enemies were deceived and 
" had spread abroad the carpet of riot and dissipation," 
he made forced marches, escaladed the walls by night, 
slew the guard at the gate and frightened away the rest 
of the startled garrison by sounding trumpets. The men 
who accomplished this consummate feat of arms were only 
two hundred and forty-three in number, and when this 
became known the little band was assailed by Amir 
Husayn. To the amazement of his enemies Tamerlane 
sallied out repeatedly and inflicted such loss in his charges 
that the larger army retreated. Not long afterwards Amir 
Husayn was forced to capitulate at Balkh, where he was 
put to death. 

The Conquest of 'Jatah and of Khwarazm^ a.h. 771—782 
(1369-13 80). — The successful issue of the contest with 
Amir Husayn gave Tamerlane complete control of 
Transoxiana, and for a full decade he was busily engaged 
in conquering the neighbouring states of Jatah to the 
east and of Khwarazm to the west. 

The Surrender of Herat^ a.h. 782 (1380). — In a.h. 
782 (1380) he began his famous campaigns in Persia, 
his first objective being Khorasan. Ghias-u-Din Pir Ali, 
the Kart Prince, after being lulled into false security, was 
surprised and submitted. His submission was accepted, 
but so heavy a contribution was levied on Herat and 
other towns that they were reduced to dire poverty. 
Kandahar and Kabul also submitted later on, but isolated 
strongholds continued to resist in various portions of 
what is now termed the kingdom of Afghanistan. 

The Siege of Kalat-i-Nadiri and of Turshiz. — The 
famous natural fortress now known as Kalat-i-Nadirl, 


which has already been mentioned, won imperishable fame 
by resisting all attempts at assault after a surprise had 
failed.^ Tamerlane invested the Nafta darhand'^ in person, 
his Amirs attacking the other entrances. Some Badakshani 
hillmen found a way up the cliffs and negotiations for 
surrender were opened up, but while they were in progress 
the astute defender broke down this track. Fourteen 
assaults were delivered, but without result, and the great 
Tamerlane had to admit defeat. However, he left a 
force to blockade the fortress, and in the end jit was 
surrendered owing to an outbreak of plague. 

The city of Turshiz, the site of which I have ex- 
amined,^ was taken by force of arms. It was believed 
to be impregnable owing to its deep ditch and high walls ; 
but the water was drawn off by well-diggers, a mine was 
run under the walls, and it had to surrender. The 
garrison was spared and re-enhsted under Tamerlane to 
serve in Turkestan. 

The Sistan Campaign, a.h. 785 (1383). — The slow 
progress made by Tamerlane at this period, as compared 
with the ease with which the Mongols overran Persia, 
deserves attention. Herat had indeed submitted, but the 
resistance of Kalat-i-Nadiri and of other strongholds must 
have strained the resources of the Conqueror. Jatah, 
moreover, needed watching, and consequently it was not 
until the fourth year after the campaign began that 
Tamerlane was able to invade Sistan. Marching through 
Herat and Afghan Sabzawar, his cavalry devastated the 
whole district ; Zirreh (which is probably the ancient 
Zaranj and the modern Nad Ali) was breached and 
stormed without resort to siege operations. Tamerlane 
now advanced on the city of Sistan, and made a personal 
reconnaissance. To quote from the Zafar Nama \ "I 
made towards a gate, and when only a short distance away 
I ascended a mound which is called Kutluk, and halted 
upon the summit. As a precautionary measure I placed 
2000 men-at-arms, in complete armour, in an ambush. 
When the people of the country saw me come to a stand 

1 Fide "A Fifth Journey in Persia," Journal R.G.S. for December 1906. 
A darband is a defile which forms the natural entrance. 
* Journal R.G.S. for February 191 1. 


upon the summit of the mound, they recognized whom 
they had to deal with, and Shah Kutb-u-din, the Prince 
of Sistan, despatched to my presence Shah-i-Shahan and 
Taj-u-din Sistani, who were the chief of all his leaders." 

Tate,^ who has made a plan of Zahidan, as the ruins 
are now termed, shows a mound close to the south angle 
of the walls, and there is little doubt it was from here 
that the Great Conqueror examined the city. 

Meanwhile the Sistanis, unaware of the hidden force 
and careless of the safety of their deputation, swarmed 
out of the city and advanced to the attack. The usual 
ruse of a feigned retreat and a surprise by the hidden 
troops drove the undisciplined peasantry back to their 
walls with heavy loss, but they had fought bravely and 
killed many of the enemy, whose horses they stabbed with 
their knives. * 

Undismayed, the Sistanis next attempted a night attack, 
which at first caused some confusion, but the disciplined 
troops rallied and inflicted terrible losses on the enemy. 
The city was then assaulted by the entire army, and its 
ruler, realizing that he could not hope to resist for very 
long, resolved to surrender. During the course of the 
negotiations Tamerlane set off with a small escort to visit 
one of his divisions. Again the Sistanis assailed him, climb- 
ing down from their battlements. This act of hostility 
provoked Tamerlane to order a fresh assault, and the 
city was taken. Its garrison was put to the sword, and 
its population was massacred. Its great area is now so 
desolate and lifeless that when I visited it the wonderful 
lines of Isaiah ^ came to my mind : " An habitation of 
dragons, and a court for owls. The wild beasts of the 
desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, 
and the satyr shall cry to his fellow." 

The Campaign in Northern Persia^ a.h. 786 (1384). — 
In the year following the conquest of Sistan and the 
consolidation of his power in Khorasan, Tamerlane under- 
took what may be regarded as the first of his distant 
campaigns. Hitherto he had been operating in districts 

1 Sistan^ Parts L to III. p. 55. This useful work is by G. P. Tate of the Survey 
Department of the Government of India. 
^ Chap, xxxiv. 13, 14. 


familiar to him and not very far from his base. Crossing 
the Oxus with a powerful and well-equipped army, he 
marched into the valley of the Gurgan and camped near 
Astrabad. Its ruler, who had submitted but had since 
rebelled, resisted for a month, and then, seeing no hope 
of success, left his state to be ravaged, and fled. After 
the conquest of Mazanderan, Tamerlane advanced on Rei 
and Sultania, and having taken these royal cities returned 
to Samarcand. 

The Campaign in Azerbaijan^ Georgia and Fars^ a.h. 
788-790 (1386-1388). — Two years later a second and 
even more distant campaign was undertaken, in the course 
of which Tamerlane occupied Azerbaijan, crossed the 
Aras, overran Georgia, and received the submission of 
the Princes of Gilan, of the Khan of the Lesgians, and of 
the Prince of Shirwan. His next objective was Van, the 
capital of the rising Kara Kuyunlu dynasty, which was 
sacked ; its Prince, Kara Yusuf, leaving it to its fate and 
remaining in exile until the Conqueror had quitted the 

Zayn-ul-Abidin, son of Shah Shuja of the MuzafFar 
dynasty, now occupied the throne of Fars. He had not 
followed out his father's policy of submission to Tamer- 
lane, but had imprisoned his envoy. Consequently the 
Great Conqueror ordered a march on Isfahan, which 
formed part of the MuzafFarid dominions. This city 
surrendered, and a heavy contribution had been almost 
collected when the chance playing of a drum brought 
together a mob which attacked and slew the 3000 Tartars 
quartered in the city. Tamerlane was merciless in 
avenging this outbreak, and 70,000 heads built into 
pyramids taught a terrible lesson. 

Tamerlane and Hafiz. — Shiraz hastened to open its 
gates when the invaders approached. Tamerlane sent for 
Hafiz, and the celebrated interview is described by 
Dolatshah as follows : 

" I have subdued with this sword the greater part of 
the earth ; I have depopulated a vast number of cities 
and provinces in order to increase the glory and wealth 
of Samarcand and Bokhara, the ordinary places of my 



residence and the seat of my empire ; yet thou, an 
insignificant individual, hast pretended to give away both 
Samarcand and Bokhara as the price of a little black mole 
setting off the features of a pretty face ; for thou hast 
said in one of thy verses : 

If that fair maiden of Shiraz would accept my love, 
I would give for the dark mole which adorns her cheek 

Samarcand and Bokhara." 

Hafiz bowed to the ground, and replied : " Alas ! O 
Prince, it is this prodigality which is the cause of the 
misery in which you see me/* The repartee delighted 
Tamerlane so much that he treated the poet with kindness 
and generosity. 

The Campaigns with Toktamish^ a.h. 790-793 (1388- 
1391). — Toktamish, the head of the Eastern ^or White 
Horde, was a great figure on the stage of Russia, Moscow 
being sacked by him in a.d. 1382. The sovereignty 
of the Western or Golden Horde also passed into his 
family, and thereby the two elder branches of the family 
of Juji^ became united. Tamerlane had helped him 
when a refugee, but with marked folly and ingratitude 
he took advantage of his absence in Pars to invade 
Transoxiana, where he defeated the force which met him, 
and ravaged the country. The Great Conqueror returned 
to Central Asia, and after a long and exhausting march 
across the uninhabited steppe, at last, aided by the 
treachery of the standard-bearer of Toktamish, defeated 
the representative of the house of Juji at the Battle of 
Terek, inflicting on him heavy losses. 

The Campaign in Fars and Irak^ a.h. 794-795 (1392- 
1393). — In A.H. 794 (1392), hearing that the state of 
affairs in Persia was unsatisfactory, or more probably 
wishing to extend his conquests farther west, Tamerlane 
decided on another Persian campaign. He marched as 
before by way of Astrabad and Amul, reducing various 
strongholds which had held out against him and extirpat- 
ing a nest of Ismailis, which had escaped from the massacre 
by Hulagu. 

^ Mohamedah Dynasties, p. 228. 


At the beginning of the following year he advanced 
on Khorramabad and Shuster, attacking and capturing the 
Kala Sufid, celebrated for its connexion with Rustam, who 
obtained possession of it by a ruse.^ He then marched 
on Shiraz, where to his astonishment his army, 30,000 
strong, was charged by Shah Mansur, Prince of the 
Muzaffar dynasty, at the head of a body of 4000 armour- 
clad horsemen. Sharaf-u-Din, who was present at this 
engagement, gives the following spirited account : " Shah 
Mansur advanced at their head like a furious lion, and in 
opposition to his reason, which should have preserved in 
his mind a suitable idea of the person he had to do with. 
On a Friday, at the hour of prayer, he attacked our main 
body, composed of 30,000 Turks, the most dexterous 
men of their time, in a place named Patila : he however 
overthrew their squadrons, broke their ranks, made his 
way into the midst of them, and gained posts of the 
utmost consequence behind our army. Then he returned, 
furious as a dragon, to the fight, seeming resolved to 
lose his life. Timur stopped short with some of his 
favourites to consider the extreme vigour, or rather rash- 
ness, of this prince, who dared to attack him in person. 
Timur, seeing him come directly against him, would have 
armed himself with his lance to oppose him, but he could 
not find it, because Poulad Choura, the keeper of it, had 
been so vigorously attacked that he had fled and carried 
away the lance. Timur, who had only fourteen or fifteen 
persons with him, did not stir out of his place till Shah 
Mansur came up to him. This rash person struck the 
Emperor's helmet twice with his scimitar ; but the blows 
did no harm, for they glanced along his arms : he kept 
firm as a rock, and did not change his posture.'* 

The Prince was not properly supported in his gallant 
charge. The two wings of his small force fled, and, 
surrounded by enemies, he was slain by Shah Rukh, the 
celebrated son of Tamerlane, who cast his head at his sire's 
feet, exclaiming, " May the heads of all thy enemies be 
laid at thy feet as the head of the proud Mansur ! " As 
recorded in the last chapter, this exploit of arms sealed the 

^ Vide Malcolm, op. c'lt. p. 27. 


doom of the Muzafiar dynasty, all the members of which 
were put to death. Baghdad was the next objective of 
the Great Conqueror, and, unable to resist, the great city 
submitted after its Prince had fled. 

The Siege of Tukrit^ a.h. 796 (1393). — From the erst- 
while capital of the Caliph, Tamerlane marched north 
and besieged Takrit, a fort held by a noted robber 
chief named Hasan, who, confident in its strength, pre- 
pared to resist to the uttermost. The siege was the most 
celebrated of the day. The lofty walls, which rested on 
the ll\dng rock or merely connected portions of the cliiF, 
appeared to be impregnable, but the army of Tamerlane 
was not to be denied. Seventy-two thousand men were 
employed in mining the solid rock, and with such success 
that at a given signal the mines, filled with combustibles, 
were simultaneously set on fire, the props were burned 
and many of the strongest towers fell. Hasan retreated, 
fighting bravely, to an inner citadel, which was attacked 
in the simie manner, and the siege ended in the capture 
of the garrison, the members of which were distributed 
among the various regiments to be tortured to death. 
With pardonable pride Tamerlane ordered that a portion 
of the fortress should be left to prove his prowess to 
future aoes. 

The Second Campaign in Russia, a.h. 797 (1394). — 
Tamerlane's next exploit was to march across Kipchak 
to the heart of Russia. Moscow was plundered, and 
Toktamish, who had dared to in\'ade Shirwan, again saw 
his country devastated. In the following year the Great 
Conqueror sacked Astrakhan and strengthened his hold 
on the Caucasus, and he concluded this arduous campaign 
by returning to Samarcand across Northern Persia. 

77\'' Invasion of India, a.h. 800-801 (1398-1399). — 
TiuTierlane*s design of invading India was at first opposed 
by some of his generals, who were appalled at the mag- 
nitude of the enterprise. An omen was sought in the 
Konui, and the verse '' O Prophet fight with the infidels 
;md the unbelie\'ers " came forth and silenced all objec- 
tions. The army, 92,000 strong, was divided into three 
corps. The first \^^s despatched from Kabul against 


Mulain ; a second corps \ras ordered to iiunide the 
Panjab, keeping to the foothills of the Himalayas, while 
the leader himself marched with tiie main body. Upon 
reaching the \ncinity of Delhi Tamerlane, anxious to fight 
a decisive batde rather thaii risk the difficulties ot a 
sle^e, entrenched himself and assumed the defensive. 
By these Uctics he entirely deceived Sultan Mahmud, 
whose armv he defeated, and by this victory secured the 
riches of Delhi, which he sacked. 

T/:c C.i^npji^K .;gciinst .'';.-• Mjmc//ikcS. a.h. S03 (1401). 
— After his return from India Tamerlane, who was now 
approaching his seventh decade, might well have rested 
on his laurels and deputed to his sons the care of his 
widespreading empire ; but conquerors, like actors, seldom 
retire from the stage. Hearing that Ahmad, tlie Jala}T 
Prince, had returned to Baghdad, the veteran chief made 
forced marches into Azerbaijan, distant more than one 
thousand miles from Samarcand. Ahmad, to strengthen 
his position, put to death various inhabitants of Baghdad 
suspected of favouring the enemy, but a rising drove him 
out of his capital and he ^vas obliged to take refi)ge with 
Kara Yusuf. 

Tamerliuie advanced into Asia Minor, and besieged 
and took Sivas. After this success he swung south- 
wards into Svria, to a\'ens:e the murder of his eiwov to 
Egypt ; there Aleppo and Damascus became his prey. 
Returning eastwards, he took Baghdad by assault and 
marched to Tabriz, where he rested his armv, 

T/ie Den\H of Bdwizid, a.h. 804 (1402). — Tamerlane s 
last campaign was perhaps his greatest. In Central Asia, 
in Persia, and in India he had encountered no formidable 
state ruled by a warlike monarch, and with his large 
numbers, perfect discipline, and vast experience, victory 
must have become a matter of course. 

The Osmanlis whom he was now to meet were 
descended from a Turkish tribe which had fled from the 
neighbourhood of Merv before the hordes of Chengiz 
Khan, and just a century before had founded a mighty 
dynasty. The early victories of this warlike people lie 
outside the scope of this work. It suffices to state that 

iix TAMERLANE 209 

in the stricken field of Kosovo, in a.d. 1389, they worsted 
the Servians and their Christian allies mainly owing to 
the bravery of Bayazid, and that seven years later at 
Nicopolis the chivalry of Europe broke and fled before 
the armed might of the Sultan, whose rapidity of action 
had earned for him the title of the " Thunderbolt." 

When Tamerlane stormed Sivas, a son of the Sultan 
was put to death, and Bayazid, who was besieging Con- 
stantinople, hastened over to Asia Minor to meet the 
invader. But Tamerlane had meanwhile marched into 
Syria, and it was not until a year later that the two 
great conquerors confronted one another on the field of 

Bayazid appears to have become indolent after his great 
successes, and, moreover, he was notoriously avaricious, 
the most fatal of all failings in the East. Consequently 
he was no match for his great opponent, who was ever fit 
and ready for war. The decisive battle was fought at 
Angora, which had witnessed the final defeat of Mith- 
ridates by Pompey and at a later date the first victory of 
the Osmanlis. Bayazid brought his men on to the field 
tired and suffering from thirst, and some of his con- 
tingents deserted, relying on the reputation for generosity 
enjoyed by the invaders, whose agents had been active. 
The Janissaries and the Christian contingents fought 
splendidly, but the greater numbers of Tamerlane ulti- 
mately prevailed, and, as old KnoUes writes, " He with 
much ado obtained the victory." Bayazid was taken 
prisoner and, after an attempt at escape, was chained at 
night ; this circumstance, and the fact that the royal 
prisoner travelled in a barred litter, originated the legend 
of his confinement in an iron cage.^ Tamerlane reaped the 
fruits of victory by occupying Asia Minor, including the 
ports of Brusa, Nicaea, and Smyrna. From the last-named 
city he expelled the knights of St. John. It is interesting 
to learn that Tamerlane wrote a letter to Henry IV. of 
England in which he offered free commercial intercourse 
to his subjects. Henry's reply, the draft of which is 

^ Bayazid appears in Marlowe'8 Tamburlaine the Greaty and is made to beat out his 
bniins against the bnrs of* the cage. 



preserved, congr;itul:U"es 'ranierlime on his great victory 
over the Turks. Both letters were conveyed by John 
(jreenhiw,' an J'Jiglish Minorite or iM'iar Preacher who 
was resident a( Tabriz and is termed Archbishop John. 

17n' C a. s I'll 'hill Kmhdssy to the Court of Samarcand 
— Henry III. of Castile, son-in-law of " time-honour'd 
Lancaster," was notetl for the embassies which he de- 
spatched to remote parts of the world, chiefly, it is to 
be supposed, with a view to ibrming alliances which should 
act as a check on the Osmaidis and neighbouring Moslems, 
but also with the purpose of extending the fame of Spain 
and of gaining knowledge of other countries. 

We learn that two of his envoys were present at the 
battle of Angora, and that Tamerlane dismissed them 
after his victory with an ambassador of his own, who 
carried rich presents of jewels and fair women to the 
King of Castile. In continuance of this diplomatic inter- 
course Ruy (j'onzale/ di Clavijo''* was despatched to the 
Court of Tafiierlane on a second embassy in 1403. Thanks 
to the careful tliary of this trusty old knight, we possess 
a vivid and most interesting contem[)orary account of the 
Great Conqueror. 

Starting from Cadi/, accompanied by the ambassador 
whom Tamerlane had sent to the Court of Castile, the 
travellers experienced danger from both storms and 
currents, and upon reaching Rhodes were unable to 
obtain any accurate information as to the whereabouts 
of Tamerlane. They decided to make for Karabagh in 
Azerbaijan, and in pursuance of this design landed at 
Trebizond and proceeded by the well-known route to 
the frontier town of Khoi. There they met ambassadors 
from the Sultan of T^gypt bearing gifts to Tamerlane, 
among them being *'a beast called Jornufa!;^ . . . which 
was a wonderful sight " ; and the two embassies travelled 
eastwards together. 

Clavijo describes the beautiful mosques of Tabriz 

' I'hlv Original Lritin illustrati'ue of Rnglii/i Hiuory (tliir»l series, vol. i. pp. 54'S8)) 
by Sir Henry Ellig. I have lo thank Mr. A. G. Ellis for this refcrt-ncr. 

'^ yiiU: Embauy lo the Court of 'J'imour, translaJcd by Sir Clcnjcnts Morkham 
(Haltluyl Socifly). 

" CiiiafFr. 


^^ _. 








i— ti: 







"ornamented very skilfully with mosaic, and blue and 
gold work/' and gives the population at 200,000 houses, 
or a million persons, with the remark that it was formerly 
more populous. Sultania, too, is described as an im- 
portant centre, and some account is given of Gilan from 
hearsay. Continuing along the historical trunk route so 
often referred to, they mention the city of Teheran — for 
the first time, so far as I know — and a diversion was 
made to Lar, now the favourite summer camp of the 
English colony. Rejoining the Meshed road in the 
vicinity of Damghan, the ambassadors, who were ill from 
the constant riding and heat, reached Nishapur, where a 
member of the embassy died. At Meshed the Castilians 
were permitted to visit the Shrine of the Imam Riza, and 
a reference is made to the " large tomb which is covered 
with silver gilt." « 

The onward route lay by Merv, and the party nearly 
died of thirst in the desert before the Murghab was 
reached. The Oxus is referred to as " the Viadme which 
is another of the rivers which flow from Paradise. It is 
a league in width and flows through a very flat country, 
with great and wonderful force, and it is very muddy." 

Crossing by a bridge of timber near Termiz, the 
travellers passed the famous " Gates of Iran," the Eastern 
Darband or " Shut Gate," and Clavijo dwells on the 
power of the monarch who was lord of both the celebrated 
passes bearing this name ; the other, to the west of the 
Caspian Sea, better known as Derbent, has been already 
referred to more than once. Kesh, the home of Tamer- 
lane, is described, and its polished glazed tiles, in gold 
and blue patterns, made a great impression on the 

Finally Samarcand was reached, and after waiting for 
eight days, according to etiquette, the ambassadors were 
received by Tamerlane. The description of the Great 
Conqueror and of the audience is of historical value and 
had better be given in the words of Clavijo : 

"Timur Beg was seated in a portal, in front of the 
entrance of a beautiful palace ; and he was sitting on the 
ground. Before him there was a fountain, which threw 


up the water very high, and in it there were some red 
apples. The lord was seated cross-legged, on silken 
embroidered carpets, amongst round pillows. He was 
dressed in a robe of silk, with a high white hat on his 
head, on the top of which there was a spinel ruby, with 
pearls and precious stones round it. As soon as the 
ambassadors saw the lord, they made a reverential bow, 
placing the knee on the ground, and crossing the arms 
on the breast ; then they went forward and made another 
and then a third, remaining with their knees on the 
ground. The lord ordered them to rise and come 
forward ; and the knights, who had held them until then, 
let them go. Three Mirzas, or Secretaries, who stood 
before the lord, came and took the ambassadors by the 
arms, and led them forward until they stood together 
before the lord. This was done that the lord might 
see them better ; for his eyesight was bad, being so old 
that the eyelids had fallen down entirely. He had not 
given them his hand to kiss, for it was not the custom 
of any great lord to kiss his hand ; but he asked after 
the king, saying, ' How is my son the king ? is he in good 
health ? ' When the ambassadors had answered, Timur 
Beg turned to the knights who were seated around him, 
amongst whom were one of the sons of Toktamish, the 
former emperor of Tartary, several chiefs of the blood 
of the late emperor of Samarcand, and others of the 
family of the lord himself, and said : ' Behold, here are 
the ambassadors sent by my son, the king of Spain, who 
is the greatest king of the Franks, and lives at the end 
of the world. These Franks are truly a great people, 
and I will give my benediction to the king of Spain, my 
son. It would have sufficed if he had sent you to me 
with the letter, and without the presents, so well satisfied 
am I to hear of his health and prosperous state.'" 

Clavijo describes the beautiful gardens with their tiled 
palaces where banquets were given. The ambassador, 
who was invited, marvelled at the gorgeous tents, one 
of which "was so large and high that from a distance 
it looked like a castle ; and it was a very wonderful thing 
to see, and possessed more beauty than it is possible to 

(From a picture by \'erestchagin.) 


describe.'' He also refers to the feast at which the 
marriage of one of the princes of the blood was celebrated 
and at which the drinking went on all night. It is in- 
teresting to notice that Sharaf-u-Din mentions the presence 
of the ambassadors ; " for," he writes, " even the smallest 
of fish have their place in the sea." Truly a delightful 
touch ! 

The Castilian gives instances of Tamerlane's justice, 
observing that " when a great man is put to death, he is 
hanged, but the meaner sort are beheaded." He also 
visited Pir Mohamed, son of Jahangir, who was named 
his grandfather's successor. He describes him as being 
very richly dressed in " blue satin, embroidered with 
golden wheels, some on the back, and others on the 
breast and sleeves." He was watching a wrestling match 
and does not appear to have condescended tp address 
the envoys. 

Finally Samarcand, the beloved city of Tamerlane, 
"a little larger than the city of Seville," is described as 
surrounded by many gardens and vineyards, a description 
which still holds true. Its inhabitants were mainly captives 
brought from every part of the empire and " they are 
said to have amounted to one hundred and fifty thousand 
persons, of many nations, Turks, Arabs and Moors, 
Christian Armenians, Greek Catholics and Jacobites and 
those who baptize with fire on the face, who are Christians 
with peculiar opinions." ^ 

Here we must leave the Castilian Knight, with deep 
gratitude for his valuable account of the dread Tamer- 
lane, whose kindness and liberality to this embassy, 
which was overwhelmed with gifts and supplies, contrasts 
very favourably with the starvation which Carpini en- 
dured when fulfilling a similar task at the Court of the 
grandson of Chengiz Khan. 

The Death of Tamerlane^ a.h. 807 (1405). — When 
Tamerlane returned in triumph to Samarcand after the 
defeat of Bayazid, he was, as the account shows, a very 
old man. But his lust of conquest did not diminish, and 
in A.H. 807 (1404) he convened a Diet at which he 

1 Perhaps Hindus with their caste marks are here referred to. 


proposed the suWugation of China, on the double ground 
that the race of Chengiz had been expelled from that 
empire and also that the enterprise would be a holy war. 
The proposal was accepted with acclamation, two hundred 
thousand picked men were equipped, and the great army- 
began its march. The Jaxartes was crossed at Otrar, the 
city which first saw the hordes of Chengiz Khan, and there 
the sudden illness and death of Tamerlane put an end to 
the enterprise. 

His Character and Achievements. — Tamerlane, the 
" Lord of the Conjunctions," ^ was the greatest Asiatic 
conqueror known in history. The son of a petty 
chieftain, he was not only the bravest of the brave, but 
also profoundly sagacious, generous, experienced, and 
persevering ; and the combination of these qualities made 
him an unsurpassed leader of men and a very god of war 
adored by all ranks. Malcolm brands him for a massacre 
of his prisoners at Delhi, but, awful though this was, it 
was dictated by imperative military exigencies. Did not 
Napoleon act in a similar manner in the last year of the 
eighteenth century .? In the Institutes it is laid down 
that every soldier surrendering should be treated with 
honour and regard, a rule which, in striking contrast with 
the customs prevailing at the period, is remarkable for its 
humane spirit. 

The object of Tamerlane was glory, and, as in the 
case of all conquerors ancient or modern, his career was 
attended by terrible bloodshed. He sometimes ordered 
massacres by way of retribution or from policy, but there 
were few that had their origin in pure savagery. Again, 
Tamerlane was a devout Moslem, who, though he took 
advantage of the tenets of Islam for his own aggrandise- 
ment, was nevertheless a patron of learned men, a founder 
of mosques and colleges, a writer of some merit, and fond 
of the game of chess. He was also careful to allow no 
favourites, but decided everything of importance himself,^ 

^ In the East it is believed that the great conjunctions of the planets portend the 
advent of super-men. 

^ The first of his twelve maxims runs : " It is necessary that his vi'ords and his 
actions be his own. That is to say, that his soldiers and his subjects may know that 
what the king sayeth and doeth, he sayeth and doeth for himself j and that no other 
person hath influence therein," 


Tn the foreground is the white cenotaph of Tamerlane's spiritual guide ; the jade 
cenotaph of Tamerlane appears to the left. ) 

(From a painting by \'erestchagin. ) 

i^ix TAMERLANE 215 

and in an absolute monarch this constitutes a virtue of 
no mean order. 

His achievements seemed almost to border on the 
superhuman. He carried his arms in every direction 
throughout a long life, in no campaign was he worsted, 
and when he died, as Gibbon says, " From the Irtish 
and Volga to the Persian Gulf and from the Ganges to 
Damascus and the Archipelago, Asia was in the hands 
of Timur." 

Tamerlane lies in a domed mausoleum at Samarcand. 
The cenotaph consists of a block of dark jade, believed 
to be the largest in the world, the actual tomb being 
situated in a vault below. I count it a special privilege 
to have visited the tomb of this great maker of history, 
where he lies with his relatives and his spiritual leader 
and is still known as ^^ the Amir." 

Shah Rukh. 



Baber was adorned with various virtues, and clad with numberless good 
qualities, above all of which bravery and humanity had the ascendant. In the 
composition of Turki poetry he was second only to Amir Ali Shir. . . . He 
excelled in music and other arts. In fact, no one in his family before him ever 
possessed such talents as his. Nor did any of his race ever perform such 
wonderful exploits, or experience such strange adventures, as did he. — Tarikh- 
i-Rashidi (translated by Ney Elias and Denison Ross). 

Khalil Sultan^ a.h. 807-812 (1404-1409). — Tamer- 
lane made Pir Mohamed, son of his eldest son Jahangir, 
his sole heir. According to Clavijo he was then about 
twenty- two years old, and when news of the death of 
the Great Conqueror reached Samarcand he was absent at 
Kandahar. Advantage was taken of this by his cousin 
Khalil Sultan, son of Miran Shah, who was passed over for 
the succession. Being supported by the great nobles and 
the army, Khalil Sultan took possession of the capital 
and was proclaimed Sultan. Meanwhile Shah Rukh,^ 
the fourth son of Tamerlane, who, as Governor of Herat, 
had sent a courteous invitation to Clavijo, decided to 
bid for the Empire, but hearing that his rivals had 
come to terms he retired to Herat and occupied him- 
self with consolidating his position in Khorasan and 

Khalil Sultan, who retained possession of Samarcand, 
squandered the vast treasures amassed by his mighty grand- 
sire on his mistress, known as Shad-ul-Mulk^ or " Joy of 

The story runs that Tamerlane was playing chess when he received news of the 
birth of a son, and gave orders that he should be termed Shah Rukh, or " King and 
Castle," in allusion to this ancient game. 



the State," and the scandal became so great that shortly 
after his accession two important nobles broke out into 
rebellion. Although the danger was staved off for the time, 
in A.H. 812 (1409) Khalil Sultan was seized by treachery 
and ceased to reign. Shah Rukh, having again taken up 
arms, now obtained possession of Transoxiana, and finally 
returned to Herat, which he made the capital, leaving his 
son Ulugh Beg to govern at Samarcand. 

Shah Rukh^ a.h. 807—850 (1404- 1447). — Sultan Shah 
Rukh looms very large on the stage of Khorasan, in 
which province he had borne rule for some time before 
his father's death. He reigned as the heir of Tamerlane 
for nearly half a century in Persia and Central Asia. 
Throughout this period he set himself to repair the 
ravages and devastation caused by the recent conquests, 
Herat and Merv in particular benefiting by his beneficent 
activity. His wife, Gauhar Shad Aga, built the magni- 
ficent mosque and other buildings at Meshed which will 
be referred to in the next chapter. 

The court of Shah Rukh was famous for its splendour, 
and like Ulugh Beg at Samarcand he attracted men of 
learning and science. Embassies, too, were a marked 
feature of this great monarch's reign. In a.d. 141 9 he 
despatched ambassadors to the Emperor of China with 
letters written by himself, which are still extant^ and in 
A.H. 845 (1442) he sent an embassy to the Samuri in the 
Deccan, headed by a certain Abdur Razzak,- whose valuable 
and delightful narrative has been rescued from oblivion 
by the Hakluyt Society. 

Shah Rukh, although devoted to the arts of peace, 
was by no means weak or unwarlike. He defeated Kara 
Yusuf of the Kara Kuyunlu dynasty in three great battles, 
and after the death of that Prince reduced his son Iskandar 
to the position of tributary ruler of Azerbaijan. We also 
read that in a.h. 824 (143 1) he marched through the 
province of Kerman, where he was met by Sultan Oways, 
son of Amir Adugui of the Barlas tribe, who had ceased 
to pay tribute. At first Shah Rukh determined to flay 
the rebel alive, but ultimatelyjpardoned him. 

^ Astatic Miscellanies^ vol. i. Calcutta, 1785. 


A truly great ruler. Shah Rukh was first and fore- 
most monarch of Iran, and we know both from history 
and from coins that his sway extended not only to 
Astrabad and Isfahan, but to more distant Shuster to 
the west, while his boundaries to the east stretched very 

Ulugh Beg, the Astronomer-King. — Ulugh Beg before 
he succeeded his father had governed at Samarcand for 
thirty-eight years, which were a golden age for the often 
devastated province. The encouragement he gave to 
science, to which he was devoted, has preserved his name 
for all time as the author of the famous astronomical 
tables, held to be the most accurate and complete which 
have been bequeathed by the East to the West. They 
were published in Latin by John Greaves, Savilian 
Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, about 1650 and 
reprinted a century later. To Ulugh Beg, moreover, 
Persia owes the calendar which is in use to-day. The 
era is termed Sichkan 11^ or " The era of the Mouse," and 
in it there are cycles of twelve years, each of which is 
called after an animal, the names of the months being the 
signs of the Zodiac. For instance, on 21st March 191 3 
the year of the " Bull " began, and the first month is 
known as Hamal^ or "the Ram," the second as "the 
Bull," and so on. 

Ulugh Beg as a monarch was most unfortunate, for 
after his succession his nephew, the Ala-u-Dola, seized 
Herat and the person of his son Abdul Latif. No sooner 
was this pretender defeated than Turkoman plundered 
Herat, and almost simultaneously Samarcand was sacked 
by the Uzbegs. To complete the tragedy, the rescued 
Abdul Latif revolted, took his father prisoner, and 
murdered him in a.h. 853 (1449). 

Ahu Said^ a.h. 855-872 (1452-1467). — The parricide 
did not enjoy his ill-gotten throne for long ; for Abu 
Said, a descendant of Tamerlane, seized Samarcand, and 
although Abdul Latif defeated him in a battle he was 
himself removed from the scene very shortly afterwards 
by assassination. A Prince named Babar ruled for a short 
while, and after him Abu Said fought for the vacant 

(From the MS. (Or. 3714) of Babar, Emperor of India, in the British Museum.) 


throne with a cousin, Abdulla Mirza^ whom with the aid 
of the Uzbegs he succeeded in killing. He then engaged 
in a long struggle for power, and by a.h. 870 (1465) 
his authority was established in Transoxiana, Northern 
Persia, and Afghanistan. Two years later he invaded 
Azerbaijan with a powerful army, but Uzun Hasan, the 
" White Sheep '* chief, cut off his supplies by raiding 
tactics and utterly defeated him. He was handed over 
to Yadgar Mirza^ son of Shah Rukh and Gauhar Shad, 
and to avenge the death of the latter at his hands was 

The Last Princes of the Timurid Dynasty, — Sultan 
Ahmad, Abu Said's eldest son and successor, had to face 
frequent revolts, the southern provinces throwing off 
their allegiance, while his brother Omar Shaykh, father 
of Baber, defied him successfully in Ferghana. Despite 
this, the close of his long reign of twenty-seven years 
was looked back to with regret after his death, more 
especially in Bokhara, where he had erected many splendid 

Sultan Husayn, the patron of Jami, of Mirkhond, and 
of Behzad the painter, was the last Prince of the Timurid 
dynasty. He summoned Baber to aid him in a campaign 
against Shaybani Khan, the Uzbeg chief who had recently 
appeared on the scene. To this fact we owe a vivid 
account of the monarch and his court. Sultan Husayn 
is described in the immortal Memoirs of Baber as a lively, 
pleasant man, whose temper was rather hasty and whose 
language was in accordance with his temper. He often 
engaged sword in hand in fight, and no member of the 
race of Timur ever equalled him in the use of the 
scimitar. He had a turn for poetry, and many of his 
verses are far from bad. Although not without dignity, 
he was inordinately fond of keeping fighting rams and of 
amusing himself with flying pigeons and cock-fighting. 
Baber goes on to say that the age of Sultan Husayn was 
certainly a wonderful age, and abounded with eminent men. 
Some of these will be referred to in the next chapter. 

^ Miraa, or " son of an Amir," signifies " Prince " when it follows the name. When 
it precedes it, the meaning is almost equivalent to our "esquire," although it is specially 
applied to secretaries or clerks. 


The ''' Black Sheep'' Dynasty^ a.h. 780-874 (1378- 
1469). — Reference has already been made to the Turko- 
man tribe bearing a black sheep on its standards, which 
rose to power towards the end of the fourteenth century 
in the country to the south of Lake Van. Strengthened 
by an alliance with the Jalayr family, the Kara Kuyunlu,^ 
as they are termed, established themselves in Armenia and 
Azerbaijan and finally succeeded to the kingdom of the 
Jalayr. Kara Yusuf, the second chief of the tribe, was 
more than once driven into exile by Tamerlane, and was 
one of the causes of the campaign against Bayazid, who 
granted him protection. He ultimately recovered his 
possessions in a.h. 808 (1405), and three years later 
added to them those of the Jalayr dynasty, defeating 
Ahmad the Il-Khanid and putting him to death. 

Kara Yusuf, whose sister was Gauhar Shad, the wife 
of Shah Rukh, was succeeded by Iskandar. A later 
member of the dynasty, Jahan Shah, was a successful 
soldier, who conquered Georgia to the north and Fars 
and Kerman to the south. He was preparing to invade 
Khorasan when a rebellion of his two sons, who ruled in 
Tabriz and Baghdad respectively, forced him to forgo 
his designs, and shortly afterwards he was killed in a 
battle with the "White Sheep." The "Blue Mosque" 
of Tabriz was founded by this monarch. 

The '-'- White Sheep'' Dynasty^ a.h. 780-908 (1378- 
1502). — The Ak-Kuyunlu, or "White Sheep" dynasty, 
known also from a remote ancestor as Bayenderi, was 
founded in the same year as that of their rivals the 
" Black Sheep," by a grant from Tamerlane of lands 
in Armenia and Mesopotamia, in reward for services 
rendered to him. Their capital was Diarbekr, and their 
power was at first inferior to that of the rival tribe, with 
which a deadly feud existed. This originated in the 
action of Iskandar, who, when fleeing from Shah Rukh, 
had by chance seized Kara Osman, the grandfather of 
Uzun Hasan. He kept the chief in prison at Erzerum, 
where he died, and some time afterwards he exhumed the 
corpse, struck oil* the head, and despatched it in triumph 

^ Lu in Turlcl signifies " possessor of." 







to the Sultan of Egypt. Uzun Hasan, after the over- 
throw of Shah Jahan, defeated his son Hasan Ali, whom 
he captured and put to death together with every member 
of his family, in revenge for this barbarous insult. As 
mentioned above, Abu Said invaded Azerbaijan and was 
taken prisoner by Uzun Hasan, who, thanks to this 
dazzling success, became the virtual ruler of Persia. 
The death of this commanding personality occurred in 
1478. He was succeeded by his son Yakub, who was 
poisoned after a reign of seven years. The empire was 
then broken up by domestic struggles for power, and way 
was made for the coming native dynasty of the Safavis. 

The Alliance of Uzun Hasan with Venice. — A fascinat- 
ing study is the part played by the republic of Venice in 
Asia not only in trade exploration but also in diplomacy.^ 

In Chapter LVII. we have seen that the, efforts of 
Europe to induce the Il-Khans to attack Egypt and to 
rescue the Holy Land from the power of the Mamelukes 
resulted in little more than an interesting exchange of 
embassies and was entirely barren of actual results. 
Some two centuries passed after the interchange of these 
embassies, and during that period not only had the 
Osmanli Turks become the great Moslem power, but by 
the capture of Constantinople in a.d. 1453, Christendom 
was threatened more seriously than at any previous period. 
The event, although it affected Europe deeply, excited no 
real enthusiasm ; for, as Aeneas Sylvius (who is quoted 
by Gibbon) wrote, " Christendom is a body without a 
head ; a republic without laws or magistrates. The pope 
and the emperor may shine as lofty titles, as splendid 
images. . . . Every state has a separate prince, and every 
prince a separate interest." 

At this juncture, or a little later, Venice stepped into 
the breach and attempted, though with little success, to 
unite the powers of Christendom. Not content with this, 
she sought an ally in Asia, and decided to send an 
embassy to Uzun Hasan, who was married to a daughter 
of Calo Johannes, one of the last Emperors of Trebizond. 
Another daughter of the same emperor had married 

1 Vide Travels of Venetians in Persia, edited by the Hakluyt Society. 


Nicolo Crespo, the Duke of the Archipelago, among 
whose sons-in-law was Caterino Zeno, a merchant-prince 
of Venice ; he was selected to visit the Court of the 
"White Sheep" and to persuade its monarch to attack 
Mohamed II. , the conqueror of Constantinople. 

, Caterino Zeno was most kindly received at the Court 
of Uzun Hasan, where his relationship with the Queen 
made everything smooth, and the monarch was persuaded 
without great difficulty to attack the Ottoman Empire in 
conjunction with the fleets of Venice, which were operating 
on the coast of Armenia. In a.d. 1472 hostilities were 
opened and a horde of light horsemen ravaged Asia 
Minor, but a flying column under Mustafa, a son of the 
Sultan, defeated a Persian army. In the following year 
a powerful army of the Osmanlis invaded Persia, but 
being repulsed in a desperate attempt to cross the 
Euphrates retired, and Uzun Hasan, who had pursued, 
was in turn defeated and forced to retreat with heavy 
loss. After this, Caterino Zeno was sent as an ambassador 
from Uzun Hasan to rouse the princes of Christendom, 
and Josafa Barbaro took his place, but, not receiving 
support from Europe, Uzun Hasan wisely made no second 
attack on the formidable Ottoman power. 

The Rise of the Shaybanid Dynasty. — Juji, son of 
Chengiz Khan, has been referred to at the beginning of 
Chapter LVI. His fifth son, Shayban by name, who 
accompanied Batu into Hungary in a.d. 1240, was granted 
an appanage between the Ural Mountains and the rivers 
Ilek and Irghiz, where his descendants multiplied. Coming 
down to the fifteenth century of the Christian era, we 
find among his descendants a certain Abul Khayr, who 
overran Khwarazm andTurkestan. His son was Mohamed 
Shaybani, known also as Shahi Beg Khan, almost the last 
great warrior of his race, who, after serving Sultan Ahmad, 
finally overthrew the last princes of the line of Tamerlane 
by the capture of Herat from the two sons of Sultan 
Husayn in a.h. 913 (1507). He founded the Uzbeg 
kingdom which has lasted down to the present day, the 
Amir of Bokhara and the Khan of Khiva both being 
lineal descendants of Shayban. 

(PYom a MS. in the British Miiseuni.) 


Baber, — No history of Persia would be complete 
without some account of Zahir-u-Din Mohamed, famous 
by his surname Baber, the " Tiger," son of Omar Shaykh 
Mirza and grandson of Abu Said. This conqueror of 
India was born in a.h. 888 (1483) and succeeded to his 
father's princedom of Ferghana when only in his twelfth 
year. His inheritance was disputed by his two uncles, 
who, however, after some negotiations retired, and in 
A.H. 903 (1497) the boy-king took advantage of the pre- 
vailing anarchy and marched on Samarcand, of which he 
obtained possession. We read ^ how deeply he admired 
the great mosque and the palaces set in gardens with 
their beautiful tiles and stately avenues of elms, poplars, 
and plane-trees ; the delicious melons and plums also won 
his approval. Treachery at home robbed him of the 
fruits of victory, and he was for a while deserted by his 
troops. But he raised a fresh army, and in a.h. 906 
(1550) again captured Samarcand. Being afterwards de- 
feated by Mohamed Shaybani, he had to swim the River 
Kohik to save his life, and, retreating on Samarcand, he 
was blockaded there by the victor and in the end forced 
to retire from Transoxiana. 

It happened at this time that Kabul was in a state of 
anarchy, its governor (who was Baber's uncle) having 
died, and the nobles having seized upon the government. 
Baber made a bold bid for the derelict state, and won it 
in A.H. 909 (1503). Two years later he carried out the 
first of his famous expeditions into India, which culmi- 
nated in the founding of the mighty dynasty of the 

The Literary and Scientific Attainments of the Timurid 
Dynasty, — The dynasty of Tamerlane, which lasted for 
close on a century and a half, included many members 
who earned literary distinction. Tamerlane himself, in 
my opinion, wrote the Memoirs and Institutes that bear his 
name, and his literary talents were inherited by Shah 
Rukh, himself a poet of no mean order. His son, Ulugh 
Beg the Scientist, gave to the Turks a place in literature 

1 Vide Baber's Memoirs, by W. Erskine, 1826 ; also a later edition by Lt.-Col. 
F. G. Talbot, D.S.O., in 1909. There is no doubt as to the genuineness of this 
delightful autobiography. 

224 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, lx 

and science which they had never before occupied ; 
Baber, too, perhaps the most illustrious of Tamerlane's 
descendants, has added lustre to his race as a writer of 
poetry and history. The culture and attainments of these 
princes attracted the most brilliant men of the day, and to 
those who, like myself, have been privileged to travel 
in Central Asia, the names of Samarcand and Bokhara 
evoke imperishable memories of this great dynasty, whose 
splendid buildings challenge even in their decay our deep 

V " ' - • (J 



The "Diwan" of Jalal-u-Din, Rumi. 
(From a MS. in the British Museum.) 



Up, O ye lovers, and away ! *Tis time to leave the world for aye. 
Hark, loud and clear from heaven the drum of parting calls — let none delay ! 
The cameleer hath risen amain, made ready all the camel-train. 
And quittance now desires to gain : why sleep ye, travellers, I pray ? 
Behind us and before there swells the din of parting and of bells ; 
To shoreless Space each moment sails a disembodied spirit away. 
From yonder starry lights and through those curtain-awnings darkly blue 
Mysterious figures float in view, all strange and secret things display. 
From this orb, wheeling round its pole, a wondrous slumber o'er thee stole : 
O weary life that weighest naught, O sleep that on my soul dost weigh ! 
O heart, towards thy heart's love wend, and O friend, fly toward the Friend, 
Be wakeful, watchman, to the end : drowse seemingly no watchman may. 

From Nicholson's translation of the Dinvan of Jalal-u-Din, Rumi. 

The Historians of the Early Mongol Period, — In the 
chapters relating to the Mongols reference has been made 
to the celebrated historians on whose writings they were 
based, and therefore it seems desirable to preface this 
brief review of literature under the Mongols by some 
details as to their life and work. Foremost in this class 
was Izz-u-Din, Ibn-ul-Athir, author of the great chronicle 
known as al-Kdmil^ or " Complete,*' which contains the 
history of the world as known to Moslems from the 
beginning down to a.h. 628 (1230). D'Ohsson made 
full use of this work and mentions it first in the account 
he gives of the various authorities consulted by him. He 

VOL, II 225 Q 


also utilized the valuable history known as the Tarikh-i- 
Jahan-Gusha^ or "History of the World- Conqueror," 
written by Ala-u-Din Juwayni (so called from a district 
in Khorasan), who being the Secretary of Hulagu enjoyed 
exceptional advantages. This history treats of the origin 
of the Mongols and the conquests of Chengiz Khan, 
of the Khwarazm Shahs, and of Hulagu's campaign 
against the Assassins, in which the author took part. A 
third history is the Jami-ul-Tawartkh^ or " Collection of 
Histories," by Rashid-u-Din Fazl UUa, who wrote in 
the reigns of Ghazan Khan and of his successor. It 
treats fully of the Mongols and also of the dynasties 
which ruled in Persia immediately before the Mongol 
invasion. A fourth historian is the Jacobite Christian 
known as Barhebraeus, or " The Son of the Jew." His 
Abridgement of the History of Dynasties is carried down to 
the accession of Arghun and is of great value. Finally 
there is Shibab-u-Din, Mohamed of Nisa, the secretary 
of the fighting Jalul-u-Din of Khwarazm, whose history 
was written in a.h. 639 (1241), ten years after the death 
of his master, and is a useful contribution to our know- 
ledge of the stirring adventures in which he himself took 
a part. 

The Later Historians. — Of the historians who wrote 
in the later Mongol period, Mirkhond, who was born in 
the middle of the fifteenth century, and his son Khondemir 
are the best known. Mirkhond was attached to the 
Court of Herat, and his patron was the cultivated Ali 
Shir, Vizier of Sultan Husayn. His great work is the 
Rauzat-u-Safa^ or " Garden of Purity," which is a general 
history of Persia in seven ponderous tomes from the 
creation to a.d. 1471. His narrative, like those of other 
writers, is enlivened by numerous anecdotes. Khondemir 
was the author of an abridgement of his father's history 
and also wrote a history of the Mongols. Owing to the 
Uzbeg irruption, Khondemir quitted Khorasan in a.d. 
1528 and lived at the Court of Baber in India. 

Takut^ the Geographer. — Among the geographers, 
Yakut, son of Abdulla, occupies the first place. Born 
in A.D. 1 179 of Greek parents, he was sold as a slave, but 


nevertheless obtained a good education and travelled all 
over Persia. As already mentioned, he was among the 
fortunate few who escaped death at Merv. His flight 
across Northern Persia ended at Mosul, where in a.d. 1244 
he completed his Mujam-ul-Buldan^ or "Dictionary of 
Countries/' This work has been made available to the 
European student by the gifted Frenchman Barbier de 
Meynard, and has been among my most valued books of 

Nasir-u-Din^ the Philosopher and Man of Science, — 
Among the courtiers of the last Grand Master of the 
Assassins was Nasir-u-Din, the famous philosopher of 
Tus, who had been kidnapped to serve as his instructor 
and adviser, and who persuaded his master to surrender 
to the Mongols. He was treated with much respect by 
Hulagu Khan, over whom he exercised unbounded 
influence, and it was chiefly his advice which induced the 
Mongol Prince to undertake the final advance on Baghdad. 
His range included religion, philosophy, mathematics, 
physics, and astronomy, on which subjects he wrote at 
great length, and one of his chief claims to fame is that 
he persuaded Hulagu to found the celebrated observatory 
at Maragha. > 

The Sufis or Mystics. — Among the most famous poets 
of Persia were the mystics or Sufis, " Wearers of Wool," 
as they are termed, and this spirit of mysticism has per- 
meated Persian literature and the Persian mind to a 
remarkable extent.^ Its origin is hard to trace. Possibly 
it is a modern form of ancient philosophies, more especi- 
ally of Neo-Platonism and Manicheanism. Others hold 
that it is a reaction of Aryanism against the formalism of 
the Moslem religion, and, again, the philosophy of India 
has been looked on as its fountain-head. 

The true founder of the system is believed to have 
been Abu Said ibn Abul Khayr, who was born in Khorasan 
towards the end of the tenth century of our era. When 
asked to explain his doctrine, he replied, " What thou 
hast in thy head, i,e. thy ambitions, resign ; what thou 
bearest in thy hand throw away ; and whatsoever cometh 

1 Nizami and Attar, of the ^re.-M9"gol period, were myatiq^il joeLta* 


upon thee, turn not back." Browne, in summing up the 
beliefs of this extraordinary man as revealed in his verses, 
gives such a masterly description of Sufi thought that I 
cannot do better than quote it : 

'' There is the fundamental conception of God as not 
only Almighty and All-good, but as the sole source of 
Being and Beauty, and, indeed, the one Beauty and the 
one Being, ' in Whom is submerged whatever becomes 
non-apparent, and by Whose light whatever is apparent 
is made manifest.' Closely connected with this is the 
symbolic language so characteristic of these, and, indeed, 
of nearly all mystics, to whom God is essentially ' the 
Friend,' ' the Beloved,' and ' the Darling ' ; the ecstasy of 
meditating on Him * the Wine ' and ^ the Intoxication ' ; 
His self-revelations and Occulations, ' the Face ' and ' the 
Night-black Tresses,' and so forth. There is also the 
exaltation of the Subjective and Ideal over the Objective 
and Formal, and the spiritual! sation of religious obligations 
and formulae, which has been already noticed amongst the 
Ismailis, from whom, though otherwise strongly divergent, 
the Sufis probably borrowed it. Last, but not least, is 
the broad tolerance which sees Truth in greater or less 
measure in all Creeds ; recognises that ' the Ways unto 
God are as the number of the souls of men ' ; and, with 
the later Hafiz, declares that ' any shrine is better than 
self-worship.' " ^ 

Jalal-u-DiYLy Rumi. — Jalal-u-Din of Rum, or Asia 
Minor, is held to be the greatest of all the Sufi poets. 
Born at Balkh early in the thirteenth century of our era, 
he may be claimed as yet another of the extraordinary 
men of whom Khorasan can justly boast. When he was 
five years old, his father Baha-u-Din, a leading theologian, 
was forced to leave his home, and, according to the story, 
passed through Nishapur, where Attar blessed the boy 
and foretold his future fame. Baha-u-Din settled at 
Iconium, and on this account the poet was termed Rumi. 

His great work, the Masnavi^ has exercised more 
influence on thought in Iran and Turkey than any other 
written in the Persian tongue, and is even spoken of as 

^ op. at. vol. ii. p. 267. 


" the Koran in the Persian language." To quote Pro- 
fessor Cowell : "The stories themselves are generally 
easy, and told in a delightful style ; but the disquisitions 
which interrupt them are often ^ darker than the darkest 
oracles/ and unintelligible even to the Persians themselves 
without a copious commentary. When he is clear, no 
Persian poet can surpass his depth of thought or beauty 
of imagery ; the flow of fine things runs on unceasingly 
as from a river-god's urn." ^ 

The poem, which is of great length, opens with the 
following beautiful " Song of the Reed " : 

List to the reed, that now with gentle strains 
Of separation from its home complains. 

Down where the waving rushes grow 

I murmured with the passing blast, 
And ever in my notes of woe 

There lives the echo of the past. 

My breast is pierced with sorrow's dart, 
That I my piercing wail may raise ; 

Ah me ! the lone and widowed heart 
Must ever weep for bye-gone days. 

My voice is heard in every throng 

W"here mourners weep and guests rejoice, 

And men interpret still my song 

In concert with their passions' voice. 

Though plainly cometh forth my wail, 

'Tis never bared to mortal ken ; 
As soul from body hath no veil, 

Yet is the soul unseen of men.^ 

His Diwan, or collection of odes, is less known than the 
Masnaviy although there runs a legend that Sadi, on being 
requested by his royal patron to select the finest and most 
sublime ode ^ in the Persian tongue, chose one out of the 
Diwan beginning : 

Divine Love's voice each instant left and right is heard to sound : 
We're bound for heaven. To witness our departure who'll be found ? 

1 Oxford Essay Sf 1855. 

2 Translation by Professor E. H. Palmer. 

^ Nicholson's beautiful verse-translation of another of the odes is quoted as a heading 
to this chapter. 


This ode he sent to the Prince with the following remarks : 
" Never have more beautiful words been uttered, nor ever 
will be. Would that I could go to Rum and rub my 
face in the dust at his feet ! '' 

Jalal-u-Din founded the order of Mevlevi, or 
" Dancing Dervishes," whose performances are one of 
the sights of Constantinople and certainly constitute a 
fantastic side of Sufiism. 

Sadi. — Persians differ among themselves on most 
questions, but they agree that the great province of 
Iran is Fars, and that among its chief claims to great- 
ness is that it produced the two poets celebrated for all 
time as Sadi and Hafiz. Musharrlf-u-Din, known as 
Sadi, owing to his having received the protection of Sad 
bin Zangi, mentioned in Chapter LIII., is deservedly the 
favourite poet in Persia, owing to his catholic tastes and 
the fact that he is intensely human. Unlike Attar and 
Jalal-u-Din, he was not passionately devout, but was half- 
worldly, half-devout. He was not one of the essentially 
mystical poets, having no visionary strain, and he adopted 
some of their forms rather as a vehicle of thought and 
expression than in order to preach Sufi doctrines. 

Born towards the close of the twelfth century of our 
era, Sadi was left an orphan at an early age, as we know 
from his pathetic reference to the fact in the Bustan^ 
which runs : 

Caress not and kiss not a child of thine own 
In the sight of an orphan neglected and lone. 

If the orphan sheds tears, who his grief will assuage ? 
If his temper should fail him, who cares for his rage ? 

O see that he weeps not, for surely God's throne 
Doth quake at the orphan's most pitiful moan ! 

Upon his father's death he studied at the renowned 
Nizamia College at Baghdad for a while, and then made 
a journey to distant Kashgar, the date of which, from a 
reference made by the poet, can be fixed approximately 
at A.D. I2IO. His travels were indeed extraordinarily 
wide, ranging from India, where he had a grim adventure 
with a priest in the temple at Somnath, to Palestine, where 


he was enslaved by the Crusaders until ransomed by an 
acquaintance. According to one account Sadi performed 
the pilgrimage to Mecca fifteen times, in itself a remark- 
able record of travel when the distances and means of 
communication are considered. Other countries visited 
were Egypt, Abyssinia, and Asia Minor. 

When middle-aged this Persian Ulysses returned 
to Shiraz, which he ever loved, and published the fruits 
of his travel and experience of life in the Gulistan^ or 
"Rose Garden," in the Bustan^ or "Orchard,*' and in other 
works. The first -named, which students of Persian 
generally attempt when beginning to learn the language, 
although by reason of its terse epigrammatic form it is by 
no means an easy text-book, is more read and better known 
by all classes in Persia than any other work except the 
Koran. In its pages we sit behind the curtain with the 
poet and join him in all his adventures, laughing with 
him at his astuteness, and realizing how far removed 
Eastern ethics are from those we profess. As an example 
of this we may refer to the very first story, which points 
the moral that " an expedient lie is better than a mischiev- 
ous truth " ; and again, a soldier who deserted in battle 
is defended because his pay was in arrears. Such were 
the ethics Sadi preached, and such they remain in Persia 
to-day ; if we ignore this fact we fail to grasp the Persian 
point of view. As Browne says, " His writings are a 
microcosm of the East, alike in its best and most ignoble 

Of the Gull Stan the following lines, translated by 
E. B. Eastwick, are typical : 

Life is like snow in July's sun : 

Little remains and is there one 

To boast himself and vaunt thereon ? 

With empty hand thou hast sought the mart ; 

I fear thou wilt with thy turban part. 

Who eat their corn while yet 'tis green 

At the true harvest can but glean ; 

To Sadi's counsel let thy soul give heed : 

This is the way — be manful and proceed. 

To conclude, I give a charming translation by Browne 
of an ode on beloved Shiraz : 


O cypress-tree, with silver limbs, this colour and scent of thine 
Have shamed the scent of the myrtle-plant and the bloom of the 

Judge with thine eyes, and set thy foot in the garden fair and free. 
And tread jasmine under thy foot, and the flowers of the Judas-tree. 

O joyous and gay is the New Year's Day, and in Shiraz most of all ; 
Even the stranger forgets his home, and becomes its willing thrall. 

O'er the garden's Egypt, Joseph-like, the fair red rose is King, 
And the Zephyr, e'en to the heart of the town, doth the scent of his 
raiment bring. 

O wonder not if in time of Spring thou dost rouse such jealousy, 
That the cloud doth weep while the flowrets smile, and all on account 
of thee ! 

If o'er the dead thy feet should tread, those feet so fair and fleet. 
No wonder it were if thou should'st hear a voice from his winding 

Distraction is banned from this our land in the time of our lord the 

Save that I am distracted with love of thee, and men with the songs I 


Hajiz, — The second of the two great poets of Fars, 
Shams-u-Din Mohamed, known by his title of Hafiz,^ 
was born at the beginning of the fourteenth century — 
the exact date is not known — at Shiraz, where he resided 
throughout his life. During his youth he was devoted 
to pleasure, luxury, and the wine-cup, but, tiring of them 
in his old age, he became religious and attached to 
Sufiism. Unlike Sadi, he was no traveller, having the 
typical Persian fear of the sea. Being tempted to visit 
India by a pressing invitation to the Court of Mahmud 
Shah Bahmani, he travelled to Hormuz and embarked 
in one of the royal ships ; but he was so sea-sick and 
generally upset that he insisted on being allowed to return 
to the port. After reaching land he wrote a charming 
ode in which the following verse occurs : 

The glare of gems confused my sight. 
The ocean's roar I ne'er had heard ; 

But now that I can feel aright 
I freely own how I have erred. 

^ This title implies, as already explained, that its bearer knows the Koran by heart. 






The historical interview of Hafiz with Tamerlane has 
already been recorded. Two or three years later the 
poet died and was buried in a garden outside his beloved 

His enemies wished to prevent him from receiving 
the burial of a Moslem, and declared that by publicly 
drinking wine and praising its use he had become a Kafir 
or infidel. After a hot discussion it was agreed that the 
question should be decided by lot. A number of couplets 
written by the poet were thrown into an urn, and a child, 
being instructed to draw, drew forth one which ran : 

Fear not to approach the corpse of Hafiz, 
Although stained with sin, he will enter heaven. 

This completely disconcerted his ill-wishers and he was 
buried with all proper rites. Even now, however, at 
intervals some turbulent priest attains a temporary 
notoriety by defacing the tomb. An instance of this 
occurred some years ago when I was spending the 
summer at Shiraz. 

Hafiz, the greatest of the lyrical poets, a materialist 
and a mystic, was a very typical Persian of his day ; and at 
Shiraz it is easy to understand his love of spending days in 
the shady gardens, with wine and women, seated by running 
water. In most parts of Persia the influence of Islam 
has tended to produce an external aspect which may be 
termed puritanical, but at Shiraz one is among an excitable, 
laughter-loving people, whom to know is to like. 

The chief work of Hafiz is his Diwan, or " Collection 
of Odes," of which I cannot do better than quote a speci- 
men, as translated by Cowell : 

Hither, hither, O cup-bearer, hand round and give the cup. 

For love at first showed easy, but difficulties have come 

At the odour of musk which the breeze will unfold from those tresses, 

From the curls of those musky ringlets, what blood hath fallen in our 

hearts ! 
Stain thou with wine thy prayer-carpet if the old man of the tavern 

commands thee. 
For the traveller is not ignorant of the ways and customs of the inn. 
To me in the inn of my beloved, what peace or joy when every 



The bell proclaims the summons, " Bind on your burdens, 

travellers ! '* 
Dark is the night ; there is fear of the wave and a dreadful whirlpool ; 
How should they know our state, the careless ones on the shore ? 
Wilfully ye distort my every deed to my reproach ; 
How should that secret remain concealed, when they make it their 

common discourse ? 
If thou desire her presence, O Hafiz, forsake her not ; 
And when thou attainest thy desire, quit the world, and let it go. 

Jami. — The last great classical poet of Persia, who 
flourished in the fifteenth century, was Abdur Rahman, 
known by his title of Jami from his birth at the little 
town of Turbat-i-Shaykh-Jam, situated between Meshed 
and the Afghan frontier.^ Educated at Samarcand, he 
repaired to Herat, where he was well received by Ali 
Shir, the Maecenas of the age. His fame soon spread 
all over the Moslem world, and among his correspondents 
was Mohamed II., the captor of Constantinople. 

A story still told of Jami runs that he was once visited 
by a rival and for three days the poets engaged in a 
contest, answering one another in beautiful verse. Jami, 
however, inspired by this rivalry, surpassed himself and 
reached superhuman heights. The stranger, realizing his 
inferiority, was observed to be overcome, his head fell on 
his breast, and when called upon to reply he remained 
silent — in the silence of death. 

Jami's works, like those of Jalal-u-Din, deal chiefly 
with moral philosophy and mysticism. Thanks to Fitz- 
Gerald, his Salaman and Absal is the best known of his 
works, although the translator does not rise to the heights 
he reaches elsewhere. Tusuf and Zulaykha is perhaps the 
best known of his works in Persia. The story running 
through this poem is that Zulaykha, Potiphar's wife, after 
tempting Joseph in vain, became blind from weeping, and 
Joseph, finding her in this state, prayed that her sight 
and beauty might be restored and finally married her. 
Sir WilHam Jones translated extracts from the poem, one 
of which runs : 

In the morning when the raven of night had flown away, 
The bird of dawn began to sing ; 

1 Fide "A Fifth Journey in Persia," Journal Royal Geographical Society, Dec. 1906. 


The nightingales warbled their enchanting notes, 

And rent the thin veils of the rosebud and the rose ; 

The jasmine stood bathed in dew. 

And the violet also sprinkled his fragrant locks. 

At this time Zulaykha was sunk in pleasing slumber ; 

Her heart was turned towards the altar of her sacred vision. 

It was not sleep : it was rather a confused idea : 

It was a kind of frenzy caused by her nightly melancholy. 

Her damsels touched her feet with their faces, 

Her maidens approached and kissed her hand. 

Then she removed the veil from her cheek, like a tulip besprinkled 

with dew ; 
She opened her eyes, yet dim with sleep ; 
From the border of her mantle the sun and moon arose ; 
She raised her head from the couch and looked round on every side. 

The Tomb of Khudabanda at Sultania, — To deal at any 
length with the architecture of the period is beyond my 
powers and the scope of this work. I therefore propose 
to do little more than make a few remarks about buildings 
with most of which I am personally acquainted. 

The most important city of the Mongol Il-Khans was 
Sultania, situated about one hundred miles to the west of 
Kazvin. This city was founded by Uljaitu, or Khuda- 
banda, in A.H. 705 (1305). He entertained the project 
of transporting the bones of Ali and Husayn from Najaf 
and Kerbela respectively, and erected a superb building to 
receive the sacred remains. His plan was never realized 
and the building became his own mausoleum. Octagonal 
in plan, with a minaret rising at each angle, it is sur- 
mounted by a dome measuring 84 feet in diameter, the 
largest in Persia. According to Josafa Barbaro,^ "the 
great cowpe is bigger than that of San Joanni Paulo in 
Venice." The tomb of Khudabanda is certainly the finest 
building of its kind erected under the Mongols. As 
Creswell^ points out, its beautiful outline is not spoiled 
by the piling-up of material on its haunches, as in the case 
of Santa Sophia at Constantinople and of the Pantheon at 

The Shrine ofthelmamRiza, — The great pile at Meshed/ 

^ Travels of Venetians in Persia^ p. 68. 

■^ "The History and Evolution of the Dome in Persia," by K, A. C. Ores well 
{Journal R, A. S., Oct. 1914). 

^ Vide my "Historical Notes on Khorasan," 'Journal R.A.S., Oct. 19 10. 


the Glory of the Shia World, like the magnificent Gothic 
cathedrals in Europe, was erected during the course of 
many generations, each of which saw some addition. 
The most ancient part of the pile is the tomb-chamber, 
believed to be the actual mausoleum built by Mamun 
over the remains of Haroun-al-Rashid, and used a few 
years later as the burying-place of the Imam Riza.-^ The 
dome was apparently low and erected over a chamber 
33 feet square, and it is stated that the present golden 
dome was built over the ancient one which still exists. 
For 200 years the tomb was neglected, but at the 
beginning of the eleventh century Mahmud of Ghazni 
dreamed a dream, in consequence of which he ordered the 
Governor of Nishapur to add to the shrine and to build 
a wall round it. 

The shrine, apparently, was again neglected until the 
reign of Sultan Sanjar. An inscription which was copied 
for me shows that by his orders it was repaired in 
A.H. 512 (1118). This inscription and one bearing the 
date A. H. 612 (12 1 5) prove that the tomb-chamber was 
not destroyed by the Mongols, although they sacked it ; 
we may consequently accept this as the original tomb- 
chamber — a fact of some importance. The building was 
cased with tiles, of which fragments remain. 

The Mosque of Gauhar Shad, — Among the greatest 
benefactors of the Shrine was Gauhar Shad, wife of Shah 
Rukh, and to her piety we owe the magnificent mosque 
called by her name, which perhaps constitutes the crown- 
ing architectural achievement of the Mongols. It is, 
indeed, a noble quadrangle, with four great arches. That 
to the south-west, known as the Aywan-i-Maksura^ or 
"Portico of the Sanctuary,'* supports a blue dome, and in it 
the services are held. The illustration shows the beautiful 
tile and plaster work inside the Portico ; it also gives the 
pulpit which, according to Shia belief, will be ascended 
by the Twelfth Imam on the Day of Judgment. The 
loftiness and elegance of the quadrangle, together with its 
perfect proportions and exquisite tile-work, make it the 
noblest mosque in Central Asia. In front of the magnifi- 

^ Vide Chapter L. p. 73. 


cent portico is an inscription in large white letters on 
a dark-blue ground which struck me as most beautiful. 
I give a translation, as it is typical and of historical 
value : 

" Her Highness, the Noble in Greatness, the Sun of 
the Heaven of Chastity and Continence, Famous for 
Nobility and Honour and Piety, Gauhar Shad, may her 
Greatness be eternal, and may her Chastity endure and 
may her Charity increase with true Thought and high, 
and with Pious Intent of Heart of Lofty Ideal for 
fulfilling and accomplishing her hopes in Allah, may He 
accept it ; from her private property for the benefit of 
her future state and for the Day on which the Works of 
every one will be judged, with Zeal for Allah and with 
desire to please AUah and with Thankfulness for the 
Benefits of Allah and for Praise of the Benefits** granted 
by Allah, built this Great Masjid-i-Jami, the Holy House, 
in the era of the reign of the Great Sultan, and the more 
Just Khakan, the more Generous, the Lord of Rulers of 
the Arabs and of Ajam, the Sultan, son of a Sultan, the 
Father of Victory, Shah Rukh, son of Timur Gurkani, 
Bahadur Khan. May Allah make eternal his Kingdom 
and Empire ! And may he increase on the inhabitants 
of the world his Goodness, his Justice and his Generosity ! 
Thus may Allah accept her work with beneficent accept- 
ance and may He bless her with His choice blessings 
and may He grant her the greater of the boons which He 
has promised to the good ! Baisunghur, son of Shah 
Rukh, son of Timur Gurkani, wrote this inscription with 
hope in Allah in 821 (1418).'' 

No description of this great mosque would be com- 
plete without a reference to the " Mosque of the Old 
Woman.'' The legend runs that an old dame who 
owned a tiny plot of the land required by Gauhar Shad 
declined to sell it at any price, but insisted that a separate 
mosque should be erected on it. To the eternal credit 
of the Royal Consort this unreasonable demand was 
complied with, and the " Mosque of the Old Woman '' 
testifies to the fact. 

I have visited Samarcand and have studied its splendid 


colleges, but, like Vamb6ry, I award the palm to the 
stately pile of Gauhar Shad. 

The Madrasa at Khargird. — Near Khaf, on the Perso- 
Afghan frontier, is situated a college which was erected 
during the reign of Shah Rukh, as I learned from its 
inscriptions. The edifice was massively built and is still 
in good condition, covering an area of five-sevenths of an 
acre. It was designed in the usual form of a quadrangle, 
with a noble gateway, and in the interior there were four 
fine porticoes. The coloured bricks were still intact at the 
time of my visit, but the exquisite mosaics were badly 
damaged. I noted their colour as sapphire -blue, with 
green, yellow, and white, the motive of the pattern being 
conventional Kufic lettering. Fine dark-blue tiles with 
conventional flowers in light blue, white, and gold had 
originally covered the walls, the finest being great stars, 
but these, alas ! had been almost entirely carried oiF. On 
either side of the main gate was a domed building, decor- 
ated with most artistic plaster mouldings. The panelling 
consisted of dark-blue tiles relieved by hexagons of white 
marble. This noble pile is now deserted and falling into 
decay, but my visit made me realize what a dazzling blaze 
of blue splendour it must have presented at the time of 
its completion in a.h. 848 (1445). 

The Mahun Shrine, — In the vicinity of Kerman, at 
Mahun, is a beautiful shrine erected in memory of 
Sayyid Nur-u-Din, better known by his title of Shah 
Namat UUa, who flourished in the reigns of Tamerlane 
and Shah Rukh. The Shrine is entered by an imposing 
gateway supported by two minarets, the predominating 
colour of which is a bluish green. Two gigantic old 
chinars or Oriental planes give that particular touch which, 
in conjunction with the bright sunlight, shows tiles to the 
best advantage. The oblong court which is first entered,- 
together with the gateway, was erected by Mohamed Shah 
of the Kajar dynasty, and is consequently modern. A 
second courtyard with old-world rooms lies behind the 
first ; it was the gift of Sayyid Nisa, a disciple of the 
Saint. From this the blue dome is seen at its best ; 
indeed, the main building, consisting of a central chamber 


supported by galleries, is remarkably graceful and well 
proportioned. The western gallery, which is entered 
from the second court, was the gift of Shah Abbas in 
A.H. 999 (1601). Its inside walls are decorated with 
artistic frescoes of flowers. 

The tomb of the Saint, composed of blocks of 
yellow marble, is placed beneath the dome, the most 
ancient part of the structure. This, as the inscription 
shows, was erected in a.h. 840 (1437) by Ahmad Shah, 
of the Bahmanid dynasty of the Deccan, who was the 
Saint's disciple. The doors, of sandal-wood, are falling 
into hopeless decay. The tomb of Shah Khalil Ulla, the 
grandson of the Saint, lies behind a lattice. The eastern 
gallery opens out on to a lovely courtyard through a 
gateway supported by two smaller minarets. In it are 
cypress -trees and flower-beds and a cruciform tank of 
running water. 

The Shrine possesses a distinct charm, due perhaps to 
the combination of tiles, greenery, and running water, 
glorified by the deep blue of the cloudless Persian sky, 
and its dainty beauty makes a deep impression on the 

Ismail I. 



As when the Tartar from his Russian foe, 
By Astracan, over the snowy plains, 
Retires, or Bactrian Sophi, from the horns 
Of Turkish crescent, leaves all waste beyond 
The realm of Aladule, in his retreat 
To Tauris or Casbeen. 

Paradise Lost, Book X. lines 431-6. 

The Ancestors of the Safavi Dynasty, — The Safavi 
dynasty traced its descent from Musa Kazim, the seventh 
Imam and younger brother of Ismail, who is referred to 
in Chapter LI. The family had been settled at Ardebil 
for many generations and was highly esteemed, especially 
one member called Safi-u-Din, or the " Purity of the 
Faith," a title from which the dynasty took its name. 
In equal esteem was his son Sadr-u-Din, who received a 
visit from Tamerlane, and on being offered a boon asked 
the release of Turkish prisoners brought from Diarbekir. 
Tamerlane acceded to the request, and the captives, after 
recovering their liberty, declared themselves the disciples 
of the Shaykh of Ardebil. Their descendants, emigrating 
by thousands into Gilan, aided his family to found a 

Khoja Ali, the next head of the family, proceeded on 
a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where, according to Malcolm, 
his tomb was still shown a century ago as that of the 
" Shaykh of Persia." Junayd, his successor, attracted so 
many disciples that Jahan Shah, the Kara Kuyunlu Prince, 
drove him into exile. He thereupon proceeded to the 
Court of Uzun Hasan at Diarbekir, where he was received 



with high honours and given a sister of the Prince in 
marriage. Being prevented from returning to Ardebil, 
he lived at Shirwan, where he was killed in a local 
skirmish. His son Haydar inherited the warlike spirit 
bf the Ak-Kuyunlu, and his uncle Uzun Hasan bestowed 
on him his daughter by the Greek princess. She bore 
him Sultan Ali, Ibrahim Mirza^ and Shah Ismail. The last 
named was the founder of the Safavi dynasty, which was 
thus partly of Greek descent on the distaff side. Haydar 
apparently attempted to avenge his father's death by an 
assault on Shirwan, but he was slain ^ and his followers 
were defeated. Yet in death be became more powerful 
than during life ; for he was regarded as a martyr and 
his tomb at Ardebil became a plac9' of pilgrimage. Sultan 
Ali succeeded his father, but was seized by Yakub, the 
reigning Ak-Kuyunlu Prince, and together with his two 
brothers was thrown into prison at Istakhr. They escaped 
from their confinement, but Sultan Ali was killed and 
Ibrahim Mirza died shortly afterwards in Gilan. Thus 
Ismail remained the only survivor of his father's family. 

Ismail^ the Founder of the Dynasty^ a.h. 905-930 (1499— 
1524). — The strength of the Safavi family lay in Gilan. 
Ismail collected a small force in this province and his 
first enterprise was the capture of Baku and Shamakha in 
Shirwan. His success aided him to increase his following 
to 16,000 men, by whose aid he defeated Alamut or 
Alwand, Prince of the Ak-Kuyunlu dynasty. He then 
marched on Tabriz, which surrendered, and was proclaimed 
Shah. In the following year Shah Ismail defeated and 
killed Murad, brother of Alamut, in the neighbourhood of 
Hamadan. Alamut was subsequently handed over to the 
victor by treachery and was killed by the hands of Ismail, 
who possibly thereby avenged his father's death. 

Reference has been made more than once in this 
history to the Persian love for the house of Ali as 
expressed in Shia doctrines, and at last the national feeling 
was satisfied in the person of the monarch ; for he was 
no mere chieftain of a warlike tribe whose elevation to 

^ Considerable divergence of opinion prevails as to how Haydar met his death ; 
indeed there is much obscurity as to events preceding the rise of Ismail. 



the throne must provoke inevitable jealousies, but a veri- 
table descendant of Ali, whose birth would unite the 
tribesmen in his service. The co-operation of seven 
Turkish tribes in his support furnished proof that a new 
epoch had opened. The Kizilbash, or " Red heads *' ^ — a 
name by which the Ustajlu, Shamlu, Takalu, Baharlu, 
Zulkadar, Kajar, and Afshar tribes were honoured — all 
being sworn upholders of the Shia religion, regarded 
their sovereign as both saint and king, no incompatible 
functions in the East. 

After annihilating the rival " White Sheep " dynasty. 
Shah Ismail annexed Baghdad and Mosul. Later on he 
obtained possession of Diarbekir, and so successful was 
he that in a few years he had conquered the wide-spreading 
empire of the Ak-Kuyunlu. His activity was exceptional, 
and we read of his being engaged in a single season in 
operations ranging from Baku in the north to Shuster in 
the south. 

The Defeat of the Uzbegs by Shah Ismail, a.h. 916 
(i^io). — After securing his power in North- Western and 
Western Persia, Shah Ismail marched into Khorasan, 
which, as mentioned in Chapter LX., had fallen into the 
hands of the Uzbegs. He sent an envoy to Shaybani' 
Khan requesting him to desist from his invasions, but 
the contemptuous reply was, " If Shah Ismail has suffered 
any diminution of his paternal possessions, it is easy to 
restore them to him in their entirety.'' To add point 
to the message, a staff and begging bowl were sent to 
the Shah. A spindle and reel were the return gifts, 
signifying that words were a woman's weapons. 

Shaybani Khan's army had fought a battle in a.h. 
01 r (1510) against the Kazaks of the Dasht-i-Kipchak, 
and the Uzbeg monarch had engraved a record of what 
he claimed as a victory^ in a defile to the north of 
Meshed, which I have visited, and which at any rate 
proves that much of Khorasan had fallen under the 


Shah Ismail advanced against the enemy with great 

1 These tribesmen wore a scarlet head-piece ^ ,^ ^ , ^ ^ ■ .i,- 

2 Khondemir and other historians state that the Uzbegs were defeated in this 



rapidity and met the Uzbeg army in the neighbourhood 
of MerVj where, by means of a successful ambush, 1 7,000 
Persians utterly defeated 28,000 Uzbegs. Shaybani Khan 
fled to an enclosure by the River Murghab, and upon 
the capture of his place of refuge he was killed while 
attempting to jump his horse over the wall. His head 
was cut off and taken before the victor, by whose orders 
it was mounted in gold and set with jewels to serve as 
a goblet. After this victory Balkh and Herat were 
occupied, and Shah Ismail returned in triumph to Persia, 
leaving a large force to conduct further operations against 
the Uzbegs. 

Shah Ismail and Baber, — Among the captives at Merv 
was a sister of Baber, who was treated with honour by 
the victor and restored to her brother. This act of 
courtesy was the beginning of an alliance, and Baber, 
taking advantage of the death of Shaybani Khan, invaded 
Transoxiana and defeated the Uzbegs, whom he pursued 
as far as the Iron Gates. Reinforced by a Persian army, 
he followed up this success, and, sweeping aside aU 
opposition, once again entered Samarcand, amid demon- 
strations of enthusiasm. But he was not destined to 
occupy the throne of Tamerlane ; for his acceptance of 
Persian suzerainty, combined with hatred for the Persian 
Shias in Central Asia, soon cooled the affections of the 
people. Meanwhile the Uzbegs, recovering from their 
panic, rallied round Obayd-Ulla, the successor of Shaybani 
Khan. Baber, with a force 40,000 strong, attacked the 
Uzbeg chief, who had no more than 3000 men under his 
command ; but the smaUer force, fighting with the courage 
of despair, gained the day. After this disaster, the date 
of which was a.h. 918 (1512), Baber retired to Hissar, to 
the south-east of Samarcand. 

The Final Defeat of Baber by the UzbegSy a.h. 918 
(15 1 2), — Once again, reinforced by a large Persian army, 
Baber marched on Samarcand, but at Ghajdavan, to the 
north of Bokhara, he was beaten in a fiercely contested 
battle. Accepting this defeat as final, he passed off 
the stage of Central Asia. To show how unpopular his 
alliance with the Shia Persians had been, I quote from 


the Tarikh-i-Rashidi^ the writer of which, it must be re- 
membered, was Baber*s cousin. He describes the battle 
of Ghajdavan as follows : 

The Uzbeg infantry began to pour forth their arrows from 
every corner, so that very soon the claws of Islam twisted the 
hands of heresy and unbelief, and victory declared for the true faith. 
The victorious breezes of Islam overturned the banners of the 
schismatics. (The Turkoman) were so completely routed, that 
most of them perished on the field \ all the rents that had been 
made by the swords at Karshi were now sewn up with the arrow 
stitches of vengeance. They sent Mir Najm and all the 
Turkoman Amirs to hell. The Emperor retired, broken and 
crestfallen, to Hissar. 

It is to be noted that in this account Shah Ismail's 
troops are referred to as Turkoman. The Mir Najm was 
the Persian commander, whose full title was Najm-i-Sani, 
or "the Second Star." The result of this disaster was 
to restore Transoxiana to the Uzbegs, who for many 
generations thereafter were a serious menace to \)\t 
eastern province of Persia. So indelibly have they im- 
pressed themselves on the memory of the inhabitants of 
Khorasan that the great meadow near Chinaran is still 
known as Ulang-i~Shahi^ or '* The Royal Meadow," 
probably after Shaybani Khan, who was also known as 
Shahi Beg. The Uzbeg monarch generally spent the 
summer in this locality for the sake of the grazing, and 
he built Geok Bagh, or " The Blue Garden," in which 
I camped some six years ago.^ 

The Campaign of Selim the Grim^ a.h. 920 (1514)- — 
Selim the Grim was one of the great conquerors of the 
house of Othman,^ a cruel monarch revelling in blood- 
shed, but nevertheless a writer of Persian odes and a 
liberal patron to men of learning. The hatred felt for 
the Shia Persians in Transoxiana appears clearly enough 
from the failure of Baber to win success as an ally of the 
schismatics ; and it is not difficult to understand why 
Selim I. and his advisers, who were equally fanatical, 
determined to crush the upstart power and the heresy 

■* p. 261. 2 Journal R.G,S. for January 1911. 

^ The account of the relations between Persia and Turkey is mainly based on the 
monumental work by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall. 


it represented before it should be firmly established. 
Moreover, Selim was probably aware of the despatch of 
Persian envoys to Egypt and to Hungary. 

The temper of the Sultan is shown by the fact that he 
despatched secret agents to ascertain the number of the 
Shia heretics in the Ottoman dominions and massacred 
forty thousand out of a total of seventy thousand. 
Having in this manner cleared his own dominions of 
possible sympathizers with the enemy, Selim wrote 
various letters to the Shah couched in the usual bom- 
bastic style, to which Ismail replied that he had given 
no provocation, and did not desire war. He added that 
the tone of the letters must have been due to indulgence 
in opium, and he therefore sent the royal secretary a box 
of the drug. As Selim was himself addicted to the vice, 
a fact which was probably known in Persia, the sarcasm 
went home. 

The Persian monarch, most of whose troops' were 
engaged in Central Asia, decided on a defensive campaign, 
and after laying waste the country to the west, posted 
himself at Chaldiran, in the vicinity of Khoi on the 
present north-west frontier of Persia. The Turkish force 
suffered from both thirst and hunger, but it constituted 
a regular army one hundred and twenty thousand strong, 
consisting mainly of cavalry, but including several regi- 
ments of musketeers and a contingent of powerful artillery. 
The Ottoman tactics were to draw the Persian cavalry 
within range of their artillery and muskets, and the guns 
were therefore concealed behind the infantry. Shah 
Ismail, aware of the Ottoman intention, separated his 
own force, consisting entirely of cavalry and perhaps 
sixty thousand strong, into two divisions, one of which 
he led himself, while the other was placed under the 
Chief of the Ustajlu. His plan was to attack the enemy 
on both flanks simultaneously. The charge which he led 
in person against the Turkish left wing was successful 
and forced the Ottoman troops back on to the rear-guard. 
But on the Turkish right the infantry, by retiring, un- 
masked the artillery, which was used with deadly effect. 
The Persian leader fell and his force broke and fled. The 


janissaries, who had been kept in reserve, now opened 
fire on the horsemen commanded by the Shah, who, 
after performing prodigies of valour, fell from his horse 
wounded and was nearly captured. Upon remounting 
he fled, followed by his dispirited troops, and Selim won 
the hard -fought battle. The Persian camp became the 
victor's prize, all the male prisoners were massacred, and 
Tabriz submitted to the Turks. 

The campaign was not prosecuted into the heart of 
Persia, as the Turkish army was mutinous and refused to 
proceed. Selim was obliged to evacuate Tabriz, which 
he sacked, and to content himself with the annexation of 
Kurdistan and Diarbekir. Georgia he also annexed, but 
this was afterwards recovered by Shah Ismail. Peace was 
not concluded, and frontier raids continued for many 

In his next great campaign Selim turned his powerful 
army against Egypt, which he converted into a Turkish 
province. Of equal, if not greater, importance, was the 
arrangement made with the puppet Caliph, who was 
induced to make over to the conqueror his spiritual 
authority, together with the standard and cloak of 
Mohamed. In other words, the house of Othman 
succeeded to the Caliphate, and at the present time it is 
generally recognized as spiritual head of Islam by Sunni 
Moslems,^ though not by Shias. 

The Death of Shah Ismail and his Character. — Shah 
Ismail, who was a capable, brave leader, is regarded with 
much affection by Persians for having established the 
Shia doctrines as the national religion. He was also 
worshipped during his life as a saint, and his subjects 
fought with fanaticism on his behalf, often refusing to 
wear armour in battle. He was left-handed and of great 
personal strength ; it is said that he never smiled after 
his defeat by the Turks. He died at Ardebil in 1524 
and was deeply mourned by all his subjects. -"-"^ 

Tahmasp^ a.h. 930-984 (i 524-1 576). — Tahmasp, the 
eldest of the sons of Shah Ismail, succeeded to the throne 

^ Educated Indian Moslems appear to be giving up their belief in the spiritual 
supremacy of the Sultan and rather look upon him as the embodiment of the temporal 
power of Islam. The war now raging may modify this view. 





. — . 







1— ' 





































►— < 















1— 1 





^— < 









in A.H. 930 (1524) at the age of ten, and was naturally 
in the hands of the chiefs of the Kizilbash tribes, who 
intrigued for power against one another. His first cam- 
paign was against the Uzbegs, whom his general defeated 
in A.H. 934 (1527) on a battlefield which was pointed out 
to me near Turbat-i-Shaykh Jam. A rebellion called the 
Shah to Baghdad, where the chief of the Kalhor tribe, 
which still exists in the neighbourhood of Kermanshah, 
had usurped the government. This rebel he put to 
death. Yet again, in a. h. 937 (1530), the Uzbegs invaded 
Persia and besieged Herat for eighteen months, until 
upon the approach of Tahmasp they retreated. 

The Invasions of Persia by Sulayman the Magnificent. — 
The Ottoman menace was serious during the long reign of 
Sulayman the Magnificent. That monarch, upon learning 
of the death of Shah Ismail and the accession of hisrson, sent 
the latter a minatory letter couched in insulting language. 
The Persian monarch vouchsafed no reply, but despatched 
envoys to the King of Hungary and to the Emperor 
Charles VII. with proposals for an oflTensive and defensive 
alliance. Fortunately for Persia, its poverty and lack of 
resources made it a less desirable prey than the fair pro- 
vinces of Hungary and Austria. Nevertheless, in a.h. 
940 (1534) a Turkish army invaded the country, and 
after conquering Mesopotamia, took Tabriz. Encouraged 
by this success and by the submission of the rulers 
of Shirwar and Gilan, or desiring to outdo his father's 
exploits, Sulayman advanced as far east as Sultania ; he 
then, with the loss of part of his artillery, crossed the 
Zagros range and took possession of Baghdad. Four 
years later he again invaded Persia and captured Tabriz ; 
and subsequently he gained possession of the almost 
impregnable fortress of Van. Tahmasp, the "Bactrian 
Sophi," whose defensive policy is commemorated in the 
lines of Milton quoted as a heading to this chapter, 
followed up the invaders as they retreated, and, although 
the Persians lost heavily owing to a clever Turkish ruse in 
which a herd of horses was made to stampede the camp, 
the results of the campaign were indecisive. 

The Fugitive Emperor Humayun. — The foundation by 


Baber of the empire in India, with which from the begin- 
ning of the seventeenth century England was in close 
contact, lies outside the scope of this work. That illus- 
trious monarch died in a.d. 1530, and ten years later his 
successor, Humayun, was driven out by an insurrection 
and took refuge in Persia, where Tahmasp, recollecting 
the ties that united the two royal families, not only 
received him with chivalrous courtesy, but aided him 
with an army to regain the throne. A memorial of the 
wandering of the royal fugitive exists in an inscription at 
Turbat-i-Shaykh Jam, which runs : 

O Thou whose mercy accepts the apology of all. 
The mind of every one is exposed to Thy Majesty. 
The threshold of thy gate is the Kibla ^ of all peoples. 
Thy bounty with a glance supports every one. 

A Wanderer in the Desert of Destitution. 
Mohamed Humayun. Shawal, a.h. 951 (Dec. 29, 1544). 

It adds to the interest of this somewhat pathetic 
memorial to learn that Humayun was married to a 
daughter of the Shaykh of Jam, who bore him the famous 

The Rebellion of Ilkhas Mirza, a.h. 954-955 (i547- 
1548). — Sulayman was encouraged to make another 
attempt on Persia by the rebellion of Ilkhas Mirza, a 
brother of the Shah, who had fled to his court and whom 
he treated with much distinction. He despatched an 
army, and Azerbaijan and Isfahan were taken ; but Ilkhas 
Mirza quarrelled with his allies and the campaign ended 
in failure. The Pretender was afterwards captured and 
put to death. 

The Verso-Turkish Treaty of Peace^A.u, 962 (i555)- — 
Since the foundation of the Safavi dynasty there had been 
a state of hostilities, either active or in suspension, between 
Persia and Turkey. Both states at last became weary 
of the war, and in a.h. 961 (1554) a Persian ambassador, 
the commander of the royal bodyguard, reached Erzeroum 

1 This translation I owe to the late Ney Elias [Journal R.A.S., Jan. 1897). The 
Kibla is the " direction " towards Mecca. 


and asked for an armistice, which was granted. In the 
following year a second Persian ambassador reached the 
Ottoman camp. He was the bearer of a friendly letter, 
in which permission was requested for Persian pilgrims to 
visit the sacred cities. In reply Sulayman wrote that 
there would be peace between the two states so long as 
the Persians did not break it, and that the governors of 
the frontier provinces would be instructed to protect 
pilgrims bound for Mecca and Medina. This peace 
ended the first series of campaigns between Persia and 
Turkey, in which the latter power had generally been the 
aggressor, while the former had mainly confined itself to 
the defensive. 

The Betrayal of Bayazid^ son of Sulayman, — In a.h. 967 
(1559) Bayazid, son of Sulayman, rebelled and sought 
refuge in Persia. He was received with much ceremony 
at Tabriz, but by way of precaution his troops were 
distributed among the Persian contingents. Sulayman 
opened a correspondence for the surrender of his son, and 
Tahmasp, with detestable baseness, showed himself but 
too ready to sell his guest. Some two years were spent 
in arranging terms, but in a.h. 969 (1561) Bayazid and 
four of his sons were handed over to the Ottoman 
emissaries and were executed. The price paid to Shah 
Tahmasp for the betrayal of his guest was 400,000 pieces 
of gold. 

The Embassies of Anthony Jenkinson to Bokhara and 
Persia^ a.d. 1558 -1563. — The intercourse of England 
with the rulers of Persia, which has been described in 
previous chapters, now reached a new and more important 
development.-^ Under the Tudor monarchs our fellow- 
countrymen were writing a glorious chapter in the book of 
fame in connexion with Arctic exploration, wherein the cross 
of St. George showed the way. Among the earliest and 
most profitable voyages was the expedition which resulted 
in the discovery of the White Sea by Richard Chancellor, 
and the lucrative trade with Russia which was thereby 
opened up. This intercourse was developed by Anthony 

^ Early Voyages and Travels to Russia and Persia, edited by Morgan and Coote 
(Hakluyt Society). 


Jenkinson, a typical merchant-adventurer of the period. 
Appointed in 1557, after the death of Chancellor, to the 
post of captain-general of the Muscovy Company's fleet 
sailing for Russia, he was undoubtedly eager to carry out 
the instructions of his employers, which ran : "That 
you use all wayes and meanes possible to learne how 
men may passe from Russia either by land or by sea to 
Cathaia." As the sequel proves, he learned much. 

The Tsar Ivan the Terrible was most favourably im- 
pressed by the Englishman, and in a.d. 1559 despatched 
him as his ambassador to Bokhara, a remarkable com- 
pliment to his personality. During the course of this 
journey Jenkinson acquired a place among our greatest 
explorers as the first Englishman to descend the Volga 
and to visit Khiva and Bokhara. Throughout his travels 
he kept a careful diary, and we learn among other things 
that at the time of his visit, in a.d. 1559, the Uzbeg 
Prince Abdulla was about to start on the first of his great 
raids into Khorasan. Jenkinson returned safely to Russia, 
having not only accomplished his mission with success, 
but having at the same time acquired much informa- 
tion as to the route to Cathay. Later he returned to 

In A.D. 1 56 1 he again headed an expedition with 
instructions to attempt to open up commercial relations 
with Persia across Russia, a truly daring scheme in view 
of the fact that the latter power had only just acquired 
control of the Volga. But the route via Hormuz was 
out of the question, as not for another half-century was 
the English flag to appear in the Persian Gulf, and the 
Levant trade was monopolized by Genoa and Venice. 
Consequently, as Ivan waived all customs duties, the 
venture seemed good enough to tempt the lion-hearted 
Englishmen of the period. 

Jenkinson, to whom the Tsar " committed matter of 
importance and charge, to be done when I should arrive 
in those countries," left Moscow with the Ambassador of 
Persia, and travelling down the Volga, reached Astrakhan 
without incident. He encountered a terrible storm on 
the Caspian Sea, which justified its bad reputation im- 


mortalized in the odes of Horace.^ The Englishman 
landed a little to the north of Baku, and, proceeding to 
Shamakha, was fortunate enough to gain the friendship of 
Abdulla Khan, Prince of Shirwan^who is described as "being 
a prince of meane stature, and of a fierce countenance, 
richly apparelled with long garments of silke, and cloth of 
golde, imbroidered with pearles and stone : upon his 
head was a tolipane (turban) with a sharpe end standing 
upwards halfe a yard long . . . and on the left side of 
his tolipane stood a plume of fethers, set in a trunke of 
gold richly inameled," 

Taking leave of Abdulla Khan, Jenkinson travelled 
to Ardebil, crossing the Kur and passing through "a 
fruitful! countrey, inhabited with pasturing people, which 
dwell in the Summer season upon mountaines, and in 
Winter they remooue into valleys without resorting to 
townes or any other habitation." At Ardebil he described 
the " sumptuous sepulchre in a faire Meskit^'' or mosque, 
of Ismail, the founder of the dynasty, but no details as 
to his onward journey are given, except that he travelled 
across mountains destitute of wood, and in the end reached 
Kazvin, which was then the capital. 

The Englishman's chances of success were much 
diminished by the fact that Tahmasp was at this time 
making arrangements to sell Bayazid to the Sultan. 
Jenkinson, however, obtained an audience and "thus 
comming before his maiestie with such reuerence as I 
thought meete to bee vsed, I deliuered the Queenes 
maiesties letters with my present, which he accepting, 
demaunded of me of what countrey of Franks I was, 
and what affaires I had there to do : vnto whom I 
answered that I was of the famous Citie of London within 
the noble realme of England, and that I was sent thither 
from the most excellent and gracious soueraigne Ladie 
Elizabeth^ Queene of the sayd Realme, for to treate of 
friendship, and free passage of our merchants and people, 

^ Non semper imbres nubibus hispidos 
Manant in agros, aut mare Caspium 
Vexant inaequales procellae 
Usque . . . 

Book II, Ode ix. 


to repair and traffique within his dominions, for to bring in 
our commodities, and to carry away theirs, to the honour of 
both princes, the mutual commoditie of both realmes, and 
wealth of the subiects, with other words here omitted." 

Unfortunately the inevitable question of religion was 
brought up, and Jenkinson, confessing that he was a 
Christian, was told " Oh thou vnbeleeuer, we haue no 
neede to haue friendship with the vnbeleeuers, and so 
willed mee to depart. I being glad thereof did reuerence 
and went my way, being accompanied with many of his 
gentlemen and others, and after mee followed a man with 
a Basanet of sand, sifting all the way that I had gone 
within the said pallace, euen from the sayd Sophies sight 
vnto the court gate." It would have gone hard with 
the Englishman — for the Shah would probably have sent 
his head as a gift to the Sultan — if AbduUa Khan had 
not saved his life by writing " that it should not stand 
with his majestie's honour to doe me any harme or 
displeasure, but rather to give mee good entertainment 
. . . and that if hee vsed me euill, there would few 
strangers resort into his countrey." Tahmasp was ulti- 
mately persuaded by the arguments of AbduUa Khan, 
and Jenkinson returned to Shirwan, where he was treated 
with extreme kindness. Good fortune attended this great 
pioneer throughout, and he reached Moscow in safety with 
all his goods, including raw silk and dye-stuffs for the 
Muscovy Company, and silk brocades and precious stones 
for the Tsar. 

The trade thus opened seemed at one time likely to 
be successful ; but the anarchy into which Persia fell and 
the losses through storms and pirates on the Caspian Sea 
convinced the English Company, after the sixth voyage, 
that the risks were too great. Consequently in a.d. 1581 
the attempt was abandoned. But the failure of the 
enterprise was not inglorious. It trained the Englishmen 
who took part in it to the hardihood and valour charac- 
teristic of " the spacious times of great Elizabeth," and 
it enlarged the outlook of the English nation. This is 
seen from the following lines in Marlowe's Tamburlaine^ 
which evidently allude to Jenkinson's exploit : 


And Christian merchants, that with Russian stems 
Plow up huge furrowes in the Caspian sea, 
Shall vaile to us, as Lords of al the Lake. 

Milton, too, must have obtained through these 
pioneers the information on which he based the lines 
quoted as a heading to this chapter. 

An Account of Persia by D' Alessandria a.d. 1571. — The 
later years of Tahmasp were comparatively uneventful. 
Uzbeg raids on Khorasan would not trouble him greatly 
at Kazvin, but a terrible famine which occurred in a.h. 
957 (^57^)> ^^d ^ visitation of plague which followed, 
probably affected the entire country. 

Not long before his death the Shah was visited by 
Vincentio A. D' Alessandri,^ Ambassador of Venice, who 
was sent to the Court at Kazvin to persuade Tahmasp 
that the Turks were about to seize Cyprus from the 
Venetians, and that unless he attacked the* Ottoman 
dominions he would be the next victim. The mission 
failed in its object, but thanks to it we have an interesting 
description of Persia written by a competent observer. 
D' Alessandri states among other things that the route 
from Hormuz was entirely neglected and that the main 
route via Aleppo was deserted. He also mentions Anthony 
Jenkinson. His account of Tahmasp is far from flattering. 
He describes him as " of middling stature, well formed 
in person and features, although dark, of thick lips and 
grisly beard.'' He refers to the fact that he had not left 
his palace for eleven years and that the people were in 
consequence unable to present petitions to him. The 
roads are declared to be unsafe and the judges venal. 
Altogether the impression conveyed is that the country 
was utterly neglected by the monarch, who cared only 
for money and women. 

Ismail IL^ a.h. 984 (1576). — It was the custom among 
the Safavi monarchs to commit their sons to the guardian- 
ship of the great tribal chiefs, and consequently, upon 
the death of Tahmasp, who was poisoned by the mother 
of one of them, Haydar by name, furious rivalries were 
unchained. Haydar was on the spot and was the nominee 

1 Tra'veh of Venetians in Persia, p. 225 fF. 


of the Ustajlu tribe, but he was killed before his 
supporters could rally round him. Ultimately Ismail, the 
fourth son, who had been imprisoned by his father for 
twenty -five years, was placed on the throne. After 
establishing his power the new Shah, who was probably 
brutalized by his long imprisonment, put to death or 
blinded all the princes of the blood who were at Kazvin, 
to the number of eight, and also seventeen leading noble- 
men. Mohamed Mirza^ known as Khudabanda, the 
eldest son of Tahmasp, being almost blind, was not re- 
garded as a candidate for the throne. He had, however, 
been ruling Khorasan, and being afterwards appointed to 
Fars, left an infant son. Abbas, as nominal Governor of 
Khorasan, under the guardianship of Ali Kuli Khan, Chief 
of the Shamlu. Ismail sent messengers with instructions 
to put to death both Khudabanda and the infant Abbas, 
but just before the cruel order was carried out news 
arrived of the decease of the monarch from drink and 
an overdose of opium. According to another account, he 
was assassinated by fifteen men disguised as women. 

Mohamed Khudabanda^ a.h. 985 (1578). — The death 
of Ismail not only saved Mohamed' s life, but secured 
him the throne of Persia. But he proved unfit to cope 
with state affairs, and his authority was challenged before 
long by the Amirs of Khorasan, who proclaimed Abbas 
as Shah. During the civil war which ensued the weak 
monarch abandoned his Vizier, Mirza Sulayman, to the 
Kizilbash chiefs, who put him to death. After this his 
position was enfeebled by the impolitic execution of the 
Chief of the Takalu tribe, and when the Turks invaded 
Persia he was deserted by the great feudatories. The 
valour of Hamza Mirza^ the heir-apparent, alone illumi- 
nated this dark period. His first exploit was the annihi- 
lation of the Turkish advance guard near Khoi. A second 
force of Turks was despatched to avenge this disaster, but 
they too were cut to pieces. In spite of these brilliant 
Persian successes, the invading army advanced on Tabriz, 
which was taken and sacked owing to the defection of 
the Kizilbash chiefs. But Hamza Mirza had still to be 
reckoned with, and in an attack which he made in a.h. 


993 (15^5) he killed 20,000 of the enemy. Yet again, 
a month later, he inflicted crushing losses on the invaders ; 
but shortly afterwards he himself suffered defeat because 
3000 of his men were driven into a marsh. Not a whit 
discouraged, the intrepid Persian raided across the Aras 
and ravaged Salmas and Erivan. But internal divisions 
prevented these victories from bearing fruit, and Tabriz 
remained in the hands of the Turks. A plot contrived 
by the tribesmen to exclude Hamza Mirza from the 
throne proved futile, but the gallant Prince was assassinated 
by one of his favourites in a.h. 995 (1587), and with his 
death all immediate hope of expelling the invaders dis- 

Holograph Document signed by Shah Abbas in a.h. 1012 (1603). 
(Through the courtesy of Abdul Majid Belshah.) 

[Purport— Shah Abbas acknowledges his indebtedness for the book (on which he had written 
these lines) to Baha-u-Din.] 




His Person then Is such, as well-vnderstanding Nature would fit for the end 
proposed for his being, excellently well shaped, of a most well proportioned 
stature, strong, and active ; his colour somewhat inclined to a man-liKe black- 
nesse, is also more blacke by the Sunnes burning : his furniture of his mind 
infinitely royall, wise, valiant, liberall, temperate, mercifull, and an exceedmg 
lover of Justice. — Sir Anthony Sherley on Shah Abbas. 

Shak Jbbas L^A,H. 985-1038 (1587-1629). — The six- 
teenth century was a wonderful epoch both in Europe and 

1 in Asia, producing great rulers with prolific bounty. Of 
these, Charles V. and Elizabeth in Europe can be matched, 
if not overmatched, by Sulayman of Turkey, Akbar the 

J Moghul Emperor, and the subject of the present chapter. 
And yet how unpromising were the prospects of the infant 
destined to be famous as Shah Abbas the Great ! Left 
in Khorasan as its purely nominal Governor, he passed 
through boyhood a mere puppet in the hands of rival 
chieftains. His guardian, Ali Kuli Khan, Chief of the 
Shamlu, had united with Murshid Kuli Khan, chief of 
the Ustajlu, nominally to protect his rights, but actually 
for personal aggrandisement. As was to be expected, the 



two nobles quarrelled and a fight ensued, in which Ali 
Kuli Khan, who was accompanied into the field by the 
young monarch, was worsted. The horse of Abbas was 
shot and he himself ran considerable risk, but the victors, 
stopping the pursuit, threw themselves at his feet, and 
Murshid Kuli Khan became his guardian by force of arms. 

As we have already seen, Khorasan had proclaimed 
Abbas as Shah and Khudabanda had been unable to enforce 
his authority in the province. Shordy afterwards, the 
confusion consequent upon the death of Hamza Mirza 
encouraged Murshid Kuli Khan to advance on Kazvin, 
which he occupied. Khudabanda was then suppressing a 
rebellion in Fars, and advantage was taken of his absence 
to issue a proclamation that the houses and lands owned 
by his soldiers at Kazvin would be confiscated unless the 
owners returned speedily to claim them. This proclama- 
tion destroyed the power of Khudabanda, whose army 
deserted him to return to the capital ; and from this date 
— Khudabanda either dying a natural death or being assas- 
sinated — there was no opposition in Persia to the claims of 
Shah Abbas, who shordy afterwards killed Murshid Kuli 
Khan and thereby secured the reins of power. 

The Turkish Invasion^ a.h. 995-998 (1587-1590). — 
The death of Hamza Mirza and the domestic troubles 
that weakened Persia were turned to full account by the 
aggressive generals of the Sultan. An armistice had been 
negotiated by Khudabanda, but hostilities were speedily 
resumed as the cession of the province of Karabagh was 
demanded and refused. In a.h. 995 (1587) a batde was 
fought near Baghdad, in which Farhad Pasha surprised 
and defeated a Persian army 15,000 strong, after a 
desperate struggle lasting three days. As a sequel to the 
capture of Tabriz and to this success, Turkey annexed 
the western provinces of Persia, including much of Irak 
Ajami, Luristan, and Khuzistan. In a.h. 996 (1588) 
Farhad Pasha, uniting his forces with those of the 
Governor of Shirwan, invaded Karabagh and captured 
Ganja, which he strengthened by means of a hastily erected 
wall and a garrison of 3000 men. 

The position of Shah Abbas was one of great weakness 

VOL. It s 


owing to the Uzbeg invasions, and he wisely decided to 
make peace with the Turks in order that he might con- 
centrate his entire resources against the Uzbegs. After 
long negotiations, conducted by Haydar Mirza, son of 
Hamza Mirza, peace was concluded in a.h. 998 (1590) 
by the cession of Tabriz, Shirwan with its ports on the 
Caspian, Georgia, and Luristan to the Turks. 

The Uzbeg Invasions, — The Uzbeg kingdom reached 
its zenith under AbduUa IL, who was contemporary with 
Shah Abbas, and who extended the boundaries of his 
empire in every direction. To the east Farghana, Kash- 
gar, and Khotan, and to the south Balkh, Tokharistan, 
and Badakshan became his frontier provinces. On the 
western side Astrabad was surprised, and the Prince of 
Gilan, an ally of the Sultan of Turkey, was driven head- 
long from his country. Very early in his reign Abbas 
was threatened with the loss of Herat, which ultimately 
fell after a siege of nine months. The sacred city of 
Meshed was next invested. The young Shah marched 
to its relief, but illness delayed him, and the city was 
taken and sacked, its inhabitants were massacred, and 
the treasures belonging to the Shrine were carried ofF. 
Nishapur, Sabzawar, Isfarayin, Tun, Tabas, and other 
cities in Khorasan suffered a like fate. The province was 
indeed in a pitiable state until, in a.h. 1006 (1597), a 
great victory was gained over the elusive foe in the 
neighbourhood of Herat, after which the annual raids of 
the Uzbegs ceased for many years to come. 

To protect this exposed frontier Abbas transported 
from Kurdistan some thousands of Kurds, with their 
families and flocks, and settled them to the north of 
Khorasan where they acted as wardens of the marches. 
The newcomers were unable to hold their own in the 
fertile lands to the north of the ranges described in 
Chapter I. but in the valley of the Atrek they dispossessed 
the Geraili Turks and made good their position. To-day 
they are a flourishing community, still speaking their own 
language, and generally ruled by their tribal chiefs. 

The Temporary Abdication, a.h. iooo (1591). — Belief 
in astrology caused the monarch at this period to vacate 

(From Wigrams Criuiie of Ma'iki'id.\ 

I 'f 


the throne, his astrologers having predicted that serious 
danger threatened its occupant. A certain Yusuf, probably 
a Christian and certainly not a Moslem, was crowned, and 
for three days was surrounded with royal state. On the 
fourth day he was put to death ; and, the decree of the 
stars being thus fulfilled. Abbas reascended the throne on a 
propitious day with promises from the astrologers of a 
long and glorious reign. The victory over the Uzbegs 
mentioned above was gained shortly after this extra- 
ordinary incident. 

The Arrival in Persia of the Sherley Brothers^ a.d. 1598. 
— The gallant attempt of Jenkinson in the reign of 
Tahmasp to open up trade with Persia across Russia was 
an isolated episode which left no mark on the country, and 
deserves mention mainly on account of the courage and 
perseverance displayed. Under Shah Abbas, Englishmen 
first appear on the scene as gentlemen-adventurers,^ and 
their influence on Persian policy was considerable. Sir 
Anthony Sherley, already distinguished as the leader of an 
expedition to the Spanish Main, and his brother Sir Robert 
Sherley, accompanied by twenty - six followers, reached 
Kazvin in 1598, and upon the return of Shah Abbas from 
his victory over the Uzbegs the two brothers presented 
themselves as English knights who had heard of the fame 
of the Persian monarch and desired to enter his service. 
Knowledge of the customs of Persia was shown by their 
making a splendid gift " of six pair of pendants of exceed- 
ing fair emeralds : two other jewels of topazes ; a cup of 
three pieces set in gold, and enamelled ; a salt, a fair ewer 
of crystal, covered with a kind of cut work of silver, and 
gilt, the shape of a dragon." 

The young Shah, who was evidently flattered and 
pleased with the leader of the party, gave him in return 
royal gifts, including " forty horses all furnished, two with 
exceeding rich saddles, plated with gold, and set with 
rubies and turquoises.*' To these he added mules, camels, 
tents, and a sum of money. 

The Reorganization of the Persian Army, — The force at 

^ This section is based on Purchas His Pilgrimes (1625 ed.), vol. ii. ; also on TAe 
Three Brothers, or The Tra-vels and Adventures of Sir Anthony y Sir Robert ^ and Sir Thomas 
Sherley, 1828. 


the disposal of the Shah originally consisted of some sixty 
thousand Kizilbash horsemen, who would obey none but 
their chiefs. Consequently he was unable to give a com- 
mand to any one outside the Kizilbash themselves, in 
whose hands the entire power lay. To meet this difficulty 
he halved the numbers of the tribal contingents and 
organized a body of ten thousand cavalry and twelve 
thousand infantry, paid and officered by the crown. 

Allah Verdi -^ Beg, the celebrated Commander-in- 
Chief, was quick to see the advantages of the Sherley 
mission, which included among its members a cannon- 
founder. With his assistance and thanks to the Sherleys, 
batteries of artillery were formed, as well as regiments of 
regular infantry. Indeed, mainly through the initiative 
of our fellow-countrymen, a revolution was effected in 
the military organization, and in place of a feudal force of 
horsemen Persia soon possessed an army fit to meet that 
of Turkey in the field. To quote from the old English 
book of travels : " The mightie Ottoman, terror of the 
Christian world, quaketh of a Sherly feuer, and gives 
hopes of approaching fates : the prevailing Persian hath 
learned Sherleian arts of war ; and he which before knew 
not the use of ordnance, hath now five hundred pieces 
of brasse, and sixty thousand musketiers : so that they, 
which at hand with the sword were before dreadful to the 
Turkes, now also, in remoter blows and sulfurian arts, 
are growne terrible." 

The Formation of the Shah Savan Tribe. — Yet another 
counterpoise to the turbulent Kizilbash was obtained by 
inviting members of all tribes to enrol themselves as 
Shah Savan, or " Friends of the Shah." This stroke of 
policy was entirely successful ; thousands of men joined 
the new tribe, and the Shah was released from dependance 
on the Kizilbash. The tribe remains powerful at the 
present day and inhabits a wide stretch of country between 
Tabriz and Ardebil and south-east as far as Kazvin. 

Sir Anthony Sherley as Ambassador, — The great question 
agitating the Persian Court was whether war should be 

^ Malcolm terms this well-known nobleman AH Verdi, but Allah Verdi, meaning 
" God gave " in Turkish, is correct. His curious death is mentioned in The Glory of 
the Shia Worlds p. 266. 


declared against Turkey, by whose troops, it must be 
recollected, Tabriz was still garrisoned. Sherley was 
anxious to add to his services by visiting the Courts of 
Europe in order to invite their co-operation against the 
common foe, and Abbas, whose affection for the English- 
man was deep and sincere, at once agreed to the proposal. 
As Malcolm states, the credentials given to Sherley were 
" perhaps the most singular by which any public repre- 
sentative was ever accredited," and to prove this it is 
sufficient to quote the following passage : " And al you 
princes y beleeue in Jesus Christ, know you, that he hath 
made friendship betweene you and me ; which desire we 
had also heretofore graunted, but there was none that 
came to make the way, and to remoue the uaile that was 
betwene us and you, but onley this gentleman ; who as 
he came of his owne free will, so also oppon his desire, 1 
haue sent with him a chiefe man of mine. The enter- 
tainment which that principall gentleman hath had with 
me, is, that daylie, whils't he hath bin in thiese partes, we 
haue eaten togither of one dysh, and drunke of one cup, 
like two breethren. Therefore, when this gentleman 
comes unto you Christian princes, you shall credite him 
in whatsoeuer you shall demaunde, or he shall say, as 
mine owne person." 

Most favourable privileges were granted to Christian 
merchants who might desire to trade with Persia. No 
Governor might interfere with them, no customs could 
be enforced on them, and no " religious men " might 
disturb them. In short, everything possible was done 
to make the stranger feel that he was welcome in Persia. 
This friendly spirit is still noticeable in the twentieth 
century, and makes the lot of Europeans much pleasanter 
than in other parts of Asia, where, if tolerated, they are 

The embassy of Sir Anthony Sherley aroused deep 
jealousy in Moscow, where the policy of the Government 
had entirely changed since the days of Jenkinson. Not 
only was the Persian companion of the English knight 
treated as Ambassador, but he himself was thrown into 
prison for some time. In the end he obtained his release 



and proceeded to the Court of the Emperor, where he 
was received with the utmost distinction and honour, as 
it was realized that a successful campaign by Shah Abbas 
would react most favourably on the situation in Europe. 

From the Court at Prague the English knight made 
his way to Rome, whence the Persian nobleman, who had 
quarrelled with him, returned to Persia. Sir Anthony 
Sherley finally settled in Spain, where he entered the 
service of the King, who sent him on an embassy to 
Morocco. He apparently severed his connexion with 
Persia, and died in the land of his adoption. 

The Successful Campaigns against Turkey^ a.h. ioii- 
1036 (1602-1627). — It was not until fifteen years after 
his accession to the throne that Shah Abbas felt himself 
strong enough to cross swords with the Sultan and to 
attempt to regain the Persian provinces occupied by the 
great Sunni power. The actual outbreak of hostilities 
was due to an attack on Salmas by the Turkish garrison 
of Azerbaijan. Shah Abbas, having already decided to 
break the peace, marched rapidly from Isfahan, and after 
defeating the Turkish army besieged Tabriz ; the city 
surrendered on 21st October 1603, and once again, after 
eighteen years, formed part of the Persian empire. The 
Shah then marched on Erivan, which he took after a six 
months* siege ; he also occupied Shirwan and Kars. 
Meanwhile Sultan Mohamed III. had died, and upon 
the accession of the youthful Ahmad large Turkish forces 
were organized for a Persian campaign. 

The two armies met in the vicinity of Lake Urumia. 
The Turks were one hundred thousand strong and the 
Persians only sixty-two thousand : but the former had 
lost much of their old discipline and valour, whereas the 
latter were disciplined and for the first time supported by 
artillery. The Turks advanced in their usual formation 
of a column of cavalry supported by infantry and artillery, 
hoping no doubt to draw the enemy's horsemen within 
range of their guns. Shah Abbas upset this plan of battle 
by detaching Allah Verdi with instructions to execute a 
wide turning movement on to the rear of the enemy and 
then to open out his force and create the impression that 


his was the main body. The manoeuvre succeeded admir- 
ably, and a large body of Turks was detached to the rear 
to meet, as they supposed, the Persian army. The result 
was confusion ; and a charge, in which Sir Robert Sherley 
was wounded in three places, converted this into a panic 
and rout. The Turkish leaders fought bravely to retrieve 
the fortunes of the day, but in vain, and more than twenty 
thousand heads were laid at the feet of the Shah, who by 
this decisive battle freed his country and dynasty from 
the stigma of inferiority to the Turks. The fruits of the 
victory were great. Not only did Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, 
Baghdad, Mosul, and Diarbekir fall to the Persians, but 
their religious feelings were deeply gratified by the re- 
covery of Kerbela, Najaf, and other sacred centres. 

As may be supposed religious polemics raged during 
these campaigns. An utterance by the Turkish Mufti 
concluded thus : " I hope also from the divine Majesty, 
that in the Day of Judgment he will make you serve 
instead of Asses to the Jews, that that miserable Nation 
which is the Contempt of the World, may mount and 
trot with you to Hell." The Persian reply was still 
more insulting, but is too coarse to print. After long 
negotiations, peace was concluded in 1 6 1 2, Turkey agree- 
ing to recognize the frontiers as they were in the reign of 
Selim. By this act the Porte renounced all claim to the 
conquests of Murad and Mohamed TIL Shah Abbas, on 
his side, agreed to give the Sultan two hundred loads of 
silk annually. 

This treaty was not long observed. The Shah did 
not pay the stipulated silk, and he sent an expedition 
against Georgia, which was held to be in the Ottoman 
sphere of influence. In 1616 a powerful Turkish army 
set out from Aleppo, and, being joined by contingents in 
Asia Minor, laid siege to Erivan and other cities. This 
campaign ended in disaster ; for Erivan was not taken 
and the Turkish army lost heavily from the cold while 
retiring. Two years later an attempt was made on Tabriz 
by means of a forced march, but failed because the 
invaders fell into an ambuscade laid by the Governor of 
Tabriz and suffered severe losses in consequence. Their 


main army, however, advanced, and Shah Abbas was 
induced to open up negotiations for peace. In a.h. 1027 
(16 1 8) the terms agreed to in the previous treaty were 
accepted, except that Shah Abbas bound himself to a gift 
of one hundred loads of silk, instead of the two hundred 
previously agreed upon. 

Seven years later a Turkish army besieged Baghdad 
with only four light fieldpieces. The siege dragged on 
for six months, and Shah Abbas then came to the rescue. 
After fierce fighting, with heavy losses on both sides, 
a mutiny forced the Turkish leaders to retreat, and 
thousands of their men died from starvation. 

These campaigns were the first in which the advantage 
lay distinctly with Persia. Although the Sultan was 
generally the aggressor, the Shah's troops proved that 
they could at least hold their own against the enemy. 

The Embassies of Sir Robert Sherley. — Sir Robert Sherley 
was appointed Master-General of the Persian army, and 
while holding this position won great distinction in the 
Turkish wars. The Shah bestowed many tokens of his 
favour on the gallant Englishman, among them being 
a grant of bread for sixty years ! In spite of the failure 
of Anthony's mission. Abbas determined to despatch 
Robert Sherley on an embassy to the European powers. 
He left Persia in 1 609 and visited Poland, Germany, and 
Rome. In 161 1 he reached England, where he was well 
received by the King, but the object of his mission, which 
was to open up direct trade relations between Persia and 
England, met with strong opposition from the Levant 
merchants and was not at the time attained. Sherley 
remained in England a year and returned to Persia by 
way of India in an English ship. 

In 1623 Sir Robert Sherley came to England on 
a second mission. On this occasion his position was 
weakened by the arrival of another ambassador from Shah 
Abbas in the person of a certain Nakd Ali Beg,^ who, 
upon meeting Sherley, assaulted him. The English 
knight finally returned to Persia with Sir Dodmore 

^ We learn from the Court Minutes of the East India Company that Nakd Ali Beg 
before his departure was presented with his portrait "exactly and curiously drawn by 
Mr. Greenburie." The artist also painted a replica which is hung in the India Office. 


Cotton, to whom we shall return in the next chapter. 
Nakd Ali Khan, who sailed in the same fleet, but was not 
allowed to land at the same time as Sherley, poisoned 
himself on the voyage to India. 

An allusion to the pensions granted to the Sherleys, 
who were among the greatest travellers of the age, is 
probably to be found in Twelfth Night^ where Fabian 
says, " I will not give my part of this sport for a pension 
of thousands to be paid from the Sophy." 

The Administrative Genius of Shah Abbas, — The fame 
of Shah Abbas does not rest on his military exploits alone : 
it is also founded on his genius for administration and 
especially upon the thoroughness with which he took in 
hand the improvement of communications throughout the 
Empire. He built caravanserais and bridges in such 
numbers that every ancient work is now creditec^ to him. 
Even in muddy Gilan and Mazanderan his famous Sang 
Farsh^ or " Stone Carpet,** a causeway which traverses 
the Caspian provinces from east to west, is still used, 
although to judge from what I saw of it near Astrabad 
it badly needs repair. 

The most striking act of his administration was the 
selection of Isfahan as his capital. There, in the centre 
of the Empire, on almost the only river of the plateau, 
a splendid new city grew up, approached by beautiful 
double avenues of oriental planes and stately bridges, 
which prepared travellers for the superb buildings that 
are still preserved to us. Thanks to the number of these 
travellers, many of whom wrote books, the splendours 
of the Safavi dynasty have been described more fully than 
any other phase of Persian history. To quote Lord 
Curzon, " Pietro della Valle, Herbert, Olearius, Tavernier, 
Chardin, Sanson, Daulier-Deslandes, Kaempfer, and Le 
Brun successively shed the light of an acute and instructed 
scrutiny upon the scene, and have added to the respective 
literatures of Italy, Great Britain, Germany, France, and 
Holland." 2 

The Great Shah realized the harm of fanaticism and 

^ This play was written in 1601-z, by which date news would have reached England 
of the splendid reception of the English knights by Shah Abbas. 
2 Op. cit. vol. ii. p. 22. 

■ '^ "— " i—^^i— 



seclusion, and employed the European and his arts to 
strengthen his country. The breadth of his outlook is 
shown by his behaviour towards the Armenians. Instead 
of treating these Christian captives as slaves, he transported 
five thousand families with all their possessions from 
Julfa on the Aras to a new Julfa close to Isfahan. There 
they speedily took root and prospered and helped to open 
up trade with other countries. So flourishing was the 
Christian centre thus founded that, until quite recently, 
all Europeans, whether missionaries or merchants, who 
had business at Isfahan, took up their residence in this 
Armenian village. An attempt was made to establish a 
second colony in M azanderan, but this proved a complete 
failure in consequence of the malarious climate, which 
killed off the Armenians by hundreds. 

His Encouragement of Pilgrimages.-^— \n nothing was 
the practical genius of Shah Abbas more clearly shown 
than in the difficult task of consolidating the various 
tribes and peoples that dwelt in Iran. This he effected 
in great measure by encouraging the idea that Meshed 
was the national centre for pilgrimage and the special 
glory of the Shia world. In the belief that practice is 
better than precept, he made pilgrimages to the shrine of 
the Imam Riza, and on one occasion he actually walked 
the entire distance of eight hundred miles from Isfahan. 
He also performed the menial task of trimming the 
thousand candles which illuminated the sacred courts, 
and the incident inspired the following verses by 
Shaykh Bahai : 

The angels from the high heavens gather like motliH 
O'er the candles lighted in tliis Paradlnc-likc tomb : 
O trimmer, manipulate the scissors with care, 
Or else thou maycst clip the wings of Gabriel. 

Among the gifts of this monarch to the Shrine was 
his bow, which bears his name — a priceless treasure, little 
valued by Persians. He also visited Najaf, where he 
swept out the tomb of his ancestor Ali, and in every 
way he stimulated and encouraged religious feeling, 
more especially as expressed in pilgrimages. The fact 


that he drank wine freely was but a trifling hindrance 
to his reputation for exemplary piety, Moslem ethics in 
such matters being diflFerent from those of the West.^ 

His Domestic Life, — It is with revulsion that we are 
forced to turn from the greatness of the Shah's public 
achievements to the brutalities of his domestic life. Yet 
even here some allowance should be made for the position 
of a sovereign of Persia whose ill-wishers would certainly 
endeavour to make his heir the instrument of their 

Briefly, the facts to be recorded are these. Abbas 
had four sons, and when they grew up he became jealous 
of their popularity and regarded their advisers as his 
enemies. Whether he had good reason for his fears we 
do not know. Safi Mirza^ his eldest son, was the first 
victim- The Shah was led to believe that this Prince, 
who possessed the attractive qualities of valour and 
liberality, was plotting against him to avenge the death 
of a favourite who had been executed. In order that he 
might escape the odium of putting his popular son to 
death, he apparently arranged for him to be stabbed by 
a certain Behbud Khan, who alleged that he was avenging 
a private injury. The assassin took bast^ or sanctuary,^ 
in the Shah's stable, and was not only pardoned but 
promoted to high oflice. But remorse preyed on the 
father's mind and, seeking in further cruelty a strange 
alleviation for his suff^erings, he ordered the wretched 
Behbud Khan to bring him the head of his own son. 
The order was obeyed and the following dialogue ensued : 
" How dost thou feel ? " asked the Shah. " I am miser- 
able," was the reply. "Thou shouldst be happy," was the 
Shah's rejoinder, "for thou art ambitious, and now in 
thy feelings thou art the peer of thy Sovereign." The 
second son, Tahmasp Mirza^ fortunately died a natural 
death ; but shortly after the murder of Safi Mirza^ the 
two remaining sons became objects of their father's dread- 
ful jealousy. Khudabanda, the elder, had acquired much 

^ In The Glory of the Shia World, p. 139, the Persian point of view is given. 
2 In Persia, Legations, Consulates, Shrines, Telegraph Offices, and Stables are 
regarded as sanctuary. The bast in the British Legation is referred to in Chapter 


268 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, lxih 

credit in an expedition to Arabia, and owing to his 
" affability, bounty, loyalty, courage and experience in 
arms, at home and abroad," ^ was hailed as a promising 
successor to the throne. The Shah showed his displeasure 
by putting to death the Prince's tutor. Khudabanda 
hastened to court and expostulated wildly, going so far 
as to draw his sword. Thereupon his father had him 
blinded. The Prince became half insane, and in order 
to avenge himself killed Fatima, a daughter on whom 
the Shah doted, and then himself took poison. The eyes 
of the fourth son also were put out, and by this act Shah 
Abbas cut off the last of his sons from the throne. 

His Death and Character, — These acts of cruelty 
marked the closing days of Abbas, who, at the age 
of seventy, died of a painful disease at his favourite 
palace in Mazanderan, after a long and glorious reign 
of forty-two years. In reviewing the character of a 
monarch it is proper to give due weight to the judgment 
of his own people, and it may at once be said that no 
sovereign who ever ruled in Persia is so much respected 
or beloved as Shah Abbas the Great. His portrait shows 
a very handsome man, with fine, clean-cut features, keen 
eyes, and large moustaches. Throughout his life he was 
noted for courage, activity, and endurance of fatigue. His 
ideas were far in advance of those current in his time, and 
his general outlook was eminently wide and sane, although 
his readiness to kill on the slightest pretext was deplor- 
able. I prefer to think that the awful domestic tragedies 
which darkened the close of his reign were not purely 
wanton, but had at least some partial justification ; for 
a prince so great, and in the main so just, was not the 
man to put his sons to death without what he believed 
to be good reasons. This account of the greatest of 
Persia's sovereigns since the Moslem conquest may be 
fittingly concluded with Chardin's dictum, "When this 
great Prince ceased to live, Persia ceased to prosper.'* 

* Herbert, op, at. p. 178, details these tragedies with many rhetorical flourishes, 

Shah Sulayman. 



High on a throne of royal state, which far • 

Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind, 
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand 
Showers on her Kings barbaric pearl and gold, 
Satan exalted sat. ^ 

Paradise Lost, Book II., line i. 

The Effect on History of Rounding the Cape of Good 
Hope. — One of the most important events in history is 
the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope by Bartholomew 
Dias in a.d. 1487-85^ and the subsequent opening up of 
direct sea-borne trade between Europe and India. Until 
this feat was accomplished, Europe was obliged to purchase 
spices and other Eastern products from Moslem merchants, 
whose rulers drew vast revenues directly from the customs 
they levied and indirecdy from the prosperity which this 
trade conferred. The establishment of direct sea inter- 
course with Europe changed all this. In the two arteries 
of trade, through the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, the 
flow of commerce ceased. From that event dates the 
falling off in wealth and power of the Moslem states of 
Turkey and Egypt, although some generations were yet 
to pass before the sea trade was fully established and its 

1 For this date 'vide "The Voyages of Diago Cao and Bartholomew Dias, 1482-8," 
by Ravenstein, in Journal R.G.S.^ vol. xvi. pp. 625-55. I^ the Museum at Capetown 
I have seen a fragment of the padrone erected by the great explorer at Angra Pequena. 
The other fragments are at Lisbon. 



results became plainly visible. This splendid service to 
Christendom was entirely the work of Portugal, which was 
the first European power to appear in the Persian Gulf.^ 

The Importance of Hormuz. — :The port of Hormuz, the 
Ormus of Milton, mentioned by Marco Polo (see Chapter 
LVII.), and situated some six miles to the south-west of 
Minab, was of great commercial importance. Not long 
after the return journey of the Venetian the emporium 
was bodily transferred to the neighbouring island of Jerun 
for greater security, retaining there its old name, and it 
flourished amazingly for two centuries under Arab rulers, 
whose dominions also included Maskat and other posses- 
sions. The following description of the island by Pedro 
Teixeira, who visited it in a.d. 1587, deserves to be 
quoted : " This Isle of Jerun was of old volcanic, for 
which reason it remains so rugged as to amaze the explorer 
of its interior. It has a lofty range of hills running east 
and west from the sea to sea. From the foot of this to 
the northern promontory, whereon stands the fortified 
city, there is a less rugged plain. But beyond the main 
range there is nothing but lesser ranges, separate hills, and 
a rugged wilderness.'' ^ Teixeira goes on to state that there 
was no fresh water in the island except rain-water collected 
in cisterns. It seems extraordinary that a city should 
have flourished in spite of such drawbacks, but the testi- 
mony on the subject is unanimous. For example, in 
A.D. 1442, Abdur Razzak, whose description of the sea 
has been quoted in Chapter II., states that Hormuz, which 
" is a port situated in the middle of the sea, has not its 
equal on the surface of the globe." In a.d. i 504 Ludovico 
di Varthema, whose travels have been published by the 
Hakluyt Society, also refers to it as " the noble city ot 
Ormuz, which is extremely beautiful." The description 
is borne out by the Persian proverb : " If the world were 
a ring, Hormuz would be the jewel of that ring." 

The First Portuguese Expedition against Hormuz^ a.d. 
1507. — Greatest among the great Portuguese captains 

* ykle White way's Rise of the Portuguese Ponver in India. 

^ Tra-vels of Pedro Texeira, p. 164. Ed. by Sinclair and Ferguson for the Hakluyt 
Society. We owe to this traveller a translation of the history of the Kings of Hormuz 
and also of Mirkhoijd'? hijtory, referred to in Chapter LXII. 


was Alfonso D' Albuquerque/ who in a.d. 1507 started 
from Socotra with a squadron of seven ships to attack 
Hormuz. He coasted along Arabia, sacking the ports, 
including Maskat. To modern ideas his cruelty was 
repulsive, prisoners of both sexes being mutilated with 
the object of inspiring fear. Everywhere he was success- 
ful, and passing Musandam, which is termed Cape Macinde 
in the Commentaries^ he approached Hormuz with flags 
flying and artillery ready. The point ,was doubled, and 
to the dismay of his captains a large number of ships were 
sighted in the harbour, supported by a powerful force 
drawn up on shore. D*Albuquerque boldly attacked the 
ships, and most of them, deserted by their cowardly crews, 
fell into his hands. After this easy success he proceeded 
to land his small force, whereupon the boy king submitted 
and agreed to pay tribute at the rate of ;^5000 per 

The Persian Demand for Tribute. — A few days after the 
ratification of the treaty, the king sent to inform D'Albu- 
querque that a representative of Shah Ismail had reached 
the shore opposite the island, and had sent to demand the 
tribute due to Persia. D'Albuquerque replied that " he 
might tell the king that this kingdom of Ormuz belonged 
to the King of Portugal, gained by his fleet and his men, 
and that he might know of a certainty that if any tribute 
should be paid to any other king, except the king D. 
Manoel, his lord, he would take the government of the 
kingdom and give it to some one who would not be 
afraid of the Xeque Ismael. He then sent to the ships 
for cannon-balls, guns, matchlocks, and grenades, and told 
him to say to the king that he might send all these to 
the captain of the Xeque Ismael, for that was the sort of 
money wherewith the King of Portugal had ordered his 
captain to pay the tribute of that kingdom that was under 
his mastery and command." ^ Thus with Shah Ismail 
began the connexion between Portugal and Persia, which 
terminated in disaster for the invaders a little more than 
a century later. 

1 Commentaries of Alfonso Dalboquerque, ed. by Birch for the Hakluyt Society. 

? Comment ariesy vol. i. p. 145. 


The Failure of the Expedition. — D'AIbuquerque decided 
to construct a powerful fort, the foundations of which 
were duly laid, but the intrigues of his captains reacted 
on the political situation and the work was stopped. A 
bombardment and a blockade both failed, and when 
three ships of his squadron of seven deserted, there was 
no course open to him except to make for Socotra. He 
returned to Hormuz later, but not in sufficient strength 
to effect anything, and thereafter the island-state resumed 
its allegiance to Persia, its king adopting Shia principles 
in order to gratify Shah Ismail. 

The Final Occupation of Hormuz by the Portuguese^ 
A.D. 1 515. — Seven years passed, and D'Albuquerque, who 
had meanwhile become Viceroy of the Portuguese posses- 
sions in India, was able at last to attack Hormuz with a 
powerful fleet. He sailed from Goa with twenty-seven 
ships, carrying 3000 men and ample supplies. The 
local situation had entirely changed. A new puppet 
king reigned, and the power was in the hands of the 
Persian party, headed by a masterful personality known as 
Rais^ or Chief, Hamid. But no open resistance to the 
Portuguese was possible, and their demand for permission 
to complete the fort was granted. Rais Hamid was 
assassinated by the Portuguese when he visited D'Albu- 
querque, and the King, freed from his influence, was ready 
to obey the victors in all matters. 

The building of the fort proceeded throughout the 
summer, and when finished it was a splendid piece of 
work. Indeed so solid was its construction that when I 
visited it some fifteen years ago it was in excellent preser- 
vation. To quote from my description : " This grand 
old fortress is still practically intact, and is approached by 
a massive door, studded with iron spikes. It was protected 
in front by a bastion of great strength, flanked by a 
second bastion, after which the guard-house was passed. 
Beyond this the main lower portion of the fort was visible. 
It consisted of a square with a large tank, now empty, 
round which were barracks and store-houses, built into 
the massive forty-foot wall which has a parapet eighteen 
feet wide. A steep rise led to the inner work, in which 


we saw a superb reservoir, an oval forty feet high and 
fifty feet long, with a passage encircling it about twenty 
feet above the bottom ; it was, however, empty. A final 
rise brought us to the summit of the fort, some sixty feet 
above the ground level. There, overlooking the ruined 
city, was all that was left of a sumptuous palace, while 
numerous cannon lying about bore mute witness to the 
stormy past." ^ 

The Beginning of English Maritime Intercourse with the 
East. — English intercourse with India may be said to date 
from the defeat of the Spanish Armada, which stimulated 
our ancestors to an extraordinary degree. Within a year 
of the passing of the Spanish peril, a body of English 
merchants memorialized Queen Elizabeth, who readily 
granted the permission they desired to trade with India. 
The pioneer efforts failed but the practicability of the 
scheme was proved, and a successful voyage to Bantam 
by the first Dutch expedition increased the general interest, 
which culminated in the grant of a Charter of Incorpora- 
tion to the " Governor and Company of Merchants of 
London trading into the East Indies." 

The first expedition of the new company started in 
A.D. 1 60 1, under the eminent seaman James Lancaster, 
and two years later it returned with a rich freight, includ- 
ing one million pounds weight of pepper. The vicissitudes 
of these early voyages and of the merchants engaged in 
them are recorded in Letters received by the East India 
Company^ and we learn from them how intercourse was 
opened up with Persia. 

The First English Attempt to Trade with Persia by Sea^ 
A.D. 1 6 14. — When the English factors first visited the 
Moghul Court, their broad cloth sold well, and a large 
quantity was ordered from England. But when this 
arrived it had ceased to be a novelty, and as there was 
little demand a new market was sorely needed. The 
Chief Factor had learned from an Englishman named 

^ Ten Thousand Miles, etc., p. 288. 

* These volumes have been mainly edited by W. Foster, the gifted Registrar of the 
India Office, and the series has been continued in the English Factories in India. Foster 
has also edited The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to India, which contains an excellent 
account of the opening up of trade with Persia, I have also consulted the Calendar of 
State Papers, ed. by Noel Sainsbury. 



Steele, who had travelled overland from Aleppo to 
India, that in Persia they might feel sure " of the vent 
of much cloth, in regard their country is cold, and 
that men, women and children are clothed therewith 
some five months in the year." He also added that 
silk could be purchased 50 per cent cheaper than at 

With admirable initiative, it was therefore decided by 
the factors at Surat to send Steele and a factor named 
Crouther to Isfahan to obtain a far man or " order '* from 
Shah Abbas. They were furnished also with letters to 
Sir Robert Sherley, who had recently returned to Persia. 
In A.D. 1 6 14 these pioneers of commerce started oiF from 
India, and, thanks to Sherley, three identical farmans were 
obtained from Shah Abbas, ordering the governors of the 
ports to aid any British vessels. One of these was sent 
to Jask, which was selected because the Portuguese held 

The Journey of Connock^ a.d. 161 6-1 6 17. — The James 
was selected for the venture and Connock was appointed 
leader of the expedition. Sailing from Surat he was well 
received at Jask and posted ahead to Isfahan. There, to 
his disappointment, he learned that the Shah was absent 
on the Turkish frontier. Undiscouraged, however, he 
persuaded William Robbins, an Englishman who lived 
at Isfahan and dealt in jewels, to accompany him to the 
royal camp. He was received with much favour by the 
Shah, who drank to the health of King James on his 
bended knee and issued a most satisfactory /^r;;^^;/. In 
return Connock promised to send for peacocks and 
turkeys, which were unknown in Persia, and also for 
toy dogs, which he terms " little little women's curs.** 

The Persian duestion of the Period. — The Persian ques- 
tion, from the point of view of the English, was the silk 
question. Silk was a royal monopoly, and the Shah was 
anxious to export it through the Persian Gulf for two 
reasons ; in order to deprive the Turks of the customs 
which they levied, and because he hoped for a better 
price. Sir Robert Sherley had attempted to persuade 
Phillip III. (who, it must be remembered, ruled over 


both Spain and Portugal^) to take the silk, but his 
proposals had not been well received ; and in England 
the East India merchants had said "the way is long 
and dangerous, the trade uncertain, and must quite cut 
oiFour traffic with the Turk/' 

When Steele reached Isfahan, Sherley had returned to 
Persia, and was preparing to start on a second mission 
to the Court of Spain. Roe, the English Ambassador at 
the Court of the Great Moghul, believing that he was 
bound to succeed, was opposed to any further steps 
towards utilizing the farman. The factors, however, at 
a meeting held at Surat in a.d. 16 16, decided that, owing 
to the departure of Sherley (whom they regarded with 
mistrust), the state of war existing between Persia and 
Turkey, and the necessity of selling their broadcloth, 
an attempt to trade should be made, and the*event proved 
that they were justified in their decision. 

The Spanish Embassy to Persia^ 1618-1619. — While 
Sherley was in Madrid on his second mission, the Spanish 
government despatched an embassy to Persia headed by 
Don Garcia de Silva y Figueroa, who wrote a voluminous 
account of his journey. The Ambassador landed at 
Hormuz, and travelling via Shiraz and Isfahan reached 
the Persian Court at Kazvin. He was well received and 
was favourably impressed by the Shah, but in the main 
object of his mission, which was to obtain a guarantee for 
the security of Hormuz, he was unsuccessful. 

The Battle of Jask^ a.d. 1620. — While Connock was 
in Persia a strong Portuguese squadron from Hormuz 
visited Jask in search of the James^ which had fortunately 
returned to Surat. In a.d. 161 8 it was decided to 
continue the Persian trade, and the whole fleet assembled 
at Surat was despatched to Jask, where the Portuguese 
were found ready to intercept the English squadron. 
There was a skirmish, followed by a period of inaction ; 
but when the English realized that their opponents were 
unwilling to attack, they bore down on the Portuguese, 
and the historical engagement oiF the eastern point of 

' From 1580 to 1640 Portugal formed a portion of the Spanish Empire, and this 
connexion was a prime factor in the decay of its power in the East. 


Jask was fought on the 28th of December 1620, The 
English squadron comprised the London^ the Hart^ the 
Robucke and the Eagle. The Portuguese fleet consisted 
of " two Portingall gallions bigger than the London^ and 
two Flemish Shipps, one much about the burthen of the 
Hart^ the other lesser than the Robucke or Eaglet ^ 

The writer of the account continues : " About nine 
of (the) clocke, the Lord sending us apprettie easterlie 
gale, our fleete weighed and put all things in order for 
fight. The London and Hart anchored within a cables 
length and halfe from them upon their broadsides^ and 
so indured the hottest burden of this second daies fight ; 
for no sooner were they at anchor but that it fell calme 
and so continued all daie, in so much that the Robucke 
and Eagle ^ who, being somewhat asterne and steering 
nearer the shoare with intent to anchor, one upon the 
bowe of the Portugall admirall, and the other upon 
the bowe of the vice admirall, could not, notwith- 
standing all diligence used, come to doe anie service 
in halfe an houres space ; and no sooner were wee 
within the levell range of our ordinance from them 
then that (not a breath of wind to bee felt and a current 
against us) wee were constrayned to anchor or drive 
further of But our broadsides once brought up, the 
great ordinance from our whole fleete played so fast 
uppon them, that doubtlesse, if the knowledge in our 
people had beene answerable to their willing minds and 
readie resolutions, not one of these galliounes, unless 
their sides were impenetrable, had escaped us. About 
three of the clocke in the afternoone, unwilling after so 
hotte a dinner to receive the like supper, they cutte their 
cables and drove with the tide (then setting westerly) 
until they were without reach of our gunnes ; and then 
their frigatts came to them and towed them awaie wonder- 
fuUie mangled and torne ; for their admirall in the 
greattest furie of the fight was inforced to heeld his 
shippe to stoppe his leakes, his mainetopmast overbord 
and the head of his mainemast. The greatter Flemming 
both his topmasts and part of his bowspritt shotte awaie. 

^ The EngUih Factoriei in India, 1618-21, pp. 223-24. 


The lesser Flemming never a shrowde standing, never 
a topmast.'* 

Thus ended the fight, in which the losses on the 
English side were small in number but included the 
gallant Captain Shilling. Each time I land at Jask I 
wonder whether a monument will ever be erected to 
celebrate this victory, which would recall the prowess of 
our ancestors and serve as an inspiration to their descend- 
ants. The merchants, after this decisive action, returned 
to business, took in five hundred and twenty bales of 
silk, and went back to Surat. 

The Capture of Hormuz by an Anglo-Persian Expedition^ 
A.D. 1622. — At the end of 162 1 the English squadron of 
five ships and four pinnaces upon reaching Jask received 
orders to proceed to Kuhistak, a port some forty miles 
south of Minab. There the two captains in command 
found the factors and were informed that the position "of 
affairs was critical. 

Hostilities had recently broken out between the 
Persians and the Portuguese, and the latter had been 
sacking the ports, which the former were totally unable 
to defend. On the other hand, a Persian army had 
established itself in Kishm and was besieging the Portu- 
guese fort ; but it was out of the question for the 
Persians to attack Hormuz unless the English could be 
induced to co-operate. Imam Kuli Khan, son of Allah 
Verdi Khan, who conducted the operations as Governor 
of Pars, showed a good deal of political acumen. He 
held out promises of reward, combined with a hint that, 
should the factors refuse to co-operate in a war which had 
been mainly provoked on account of the privileges granted 
to the English, these privileges would be cancelled, and 
the silk that was in transit would be confiscated. 

The question was debated at considerable length. 
There was peace in Europe between the Courts of 
England and Portugal, represented by Spain, although 
in Eastern waters the two powers had always fought one 
another. The Directors of the Company, who would have 
to bear the brunt if King James should think it advisable 
to make a scapegoat, would almost certainly disapprove 


of the whole business. On the other hand, the merchants 
were most unwilling to sacrifice the trade so painfully 
started, and they were Englishmen of the period, ready 
to take great risks. 

In the end they agreed to co-operate, and the follow- 
ing terms were quickly arranged with Imam Kuli Khan : 
— (a) An equal division of spoils ; (F) an equal division 
of customs dues when Hormuz was taken ; the English 
to be free of all duties in perpetuity ; {c) the Christian 
prisoners to be handed over to the English and the 
Moslems to the Persians ; and {a) the Persians to pay 
half the expenses of the fleet for supplies. These 
preliminaries having been arranged, the seamen had to 
be won over. At first they refused, "alleaging it was 
no merchandizing business, nor were they hired for any 
such exploit.'* However, by a mixture of threats and 
promises this difficulty was overcome, and in January 
1622 the squadron put to sea. 

The captains first made for Hormuz, hoping that the 
Portuguese fleet would accept the challenge, but when it 
was evident that the enemy had no intention of taking 
it up they sailed for Kishm, some fifteen miles away. 
There they found Ruy Freire, who had previously fought 
them, in command. After futile negotiations the fort 
was bombarded, but with little eflFect. A battery of five 
guns was then set up on land. The artillery practice was 
remarkable, a gun on the wall of the fort being dismounted 
at the first shot ; a breach was eff'ected and the Portuguese 
surrendered. The casualties were trifling, but among 
the killed was William BaflSn, of Arctic fame. To quote 
from Purckas^ his Pilgrimes : " Master Baffin went on 
shoare with his Geometricall Instruments, for the taking 
the height and distance of the castle wall ; but as he was 
about the same, he received a small shot from the Castle 
into his belly, wherewith he gave three leapes, by report, 
and died immediately.** ^ 

After this success, which must have raised the spirits 
of the allies, the expedition anchored off^ Hormuz. The 
Persians immediately landed a large force which took 

1 Vol. ii. p. 1792. 


possession of the town, and it was agreed that they should 
attack from the land side. From the sea and from a land 
battery the English bombarded simultaneously the castle 
and the fleet, but the latter did not attempt to show fight. 
The largest Portuguese galleon, the San Pedro^ was set 
on fire first, and then one by one the other ships were 
destroyed. The Persians, on their side, succeeded in 
blowing up part of the wall ; but their assault, although 
delivered with much gallantry, was repulsed with loss. 
Nevertheless, the situation of the garrison was desperate, 
and as the result of negotiations the fort was surrendered 
to the English. Five years after this feat of arms Sir 
Thomas Herbert visited Hormuz and wrote of the 
fort : " And both within and without the Castle so 
regularly built and so well fortified with deep trenches, 
counterscarp, and great Ordnance comnjanding both 
City and Haven, that none exceeded it through all the 
Orient." ^ 

Thus fell the famous casde of Hormuz, by means of 
which the Portuguese for more than a century had held 
at their mercy the trade between India and Europe by the 
Persian Gulf. Portugal was thrown back on Maskat, but 
from that base remained still so formidable that the 
English squadron was forced to keep with the Dutch for 
mutual protection ; in 1624 the allied fleets fought an 
indecisive action against the Portuguese. 

In 1625 the squadron from England was attacked by 
Botelho, the new Portuguese commander. The Lion 
was boarded, but the assailants were blown up, and the 
ship made for Bandar Abbas, then more generally called 
Gombroon.^ There Ruy Freire attacked and succeeded 
in burning the English ship. The crew fell into the 
hands of the enemy and were ruthlessly massacred, one 
man alone being spared. 

Gradually, however, the power of the Portuguese 
waned, an expedition which was fitted out in 1630 with a 
view to the recapture of Hormuz being a failure. Maskat 

1 Some Years' Trwvelsy etc., p. io6 j his account of Hormuz and of the siege is well 
worth reading. 

*^ This ill-sounding word is a corruption of the Turkish Gumruk or Custom-house, 
itself a corruption of the Greek Kovfiepif akin to the English word " commerce." 


was captured by the Imam of Oman in 1651/ and no great 
while after the capture of Hormuz only deserted forts and 
the word portugale^ the name by which a sweet orange is 
known in Persia, were left to mark the splendid position 
gained by the valour of D* Albuquerque and lost by the 
incapacity of his successors. For the English the taking 
of Hormuz was the most important event which had 
occurred since their appearance in the East, and their 
power and prestige must have risen to great heights when 
the news reached India. In Persia, too, they must have 
acquired credit ; for although the commander of the 
Shah's troops would doubtless minimize the part played 
by our countrymen, whose losses were trifling compared 
with his own, without doubt Abbas fully realized that he 
could not have seized Hormuz without English help. 
When, in a.d. 1635, the British made peace with Portugal 
in the East — a peace which has never since been broken — 
the Persians were much alarmed on account of Hormuz, 
a fact which sufficiently shows how important was the 
part played in those Eastern waters by our fighting 

The Dutch, — Two years after the grant of the British 
East India Company's charter, rival Dutch efforts were 
amalgamated into a single company, and in the course of 
the next twenty years the newcomers had won their way 
to a leading position, mainly at the expense of Portugal, 
whose chief possessions they seized. A Dutch factory 
seems to have been established at Hormuz the year after 
its capture by the Anglo -Persian expedition ; ^ it was 
subsequendy moved to Bandar Abbas, where the massive 
building still remains and serves as the residence of the 
Persian Governor. In 1652, and again in 1666, Dutch 
missions visited Isfahan, and Chardin writes that at this 
period the Dutch were masters of the Persian trade, the 
English occupying the second place. Their success was 
due to their forcing the Persian Government to allow them 
to buy silk in any part of Persia and to export it without 
paying customs dues. This right was acquired in 1645, 

^ Vide The Imams of Oman, edited for Hakluyt Society by Rev. P. Badger, p. 8i ff. 
^ Persia, ii. p. 550. This section and the following are mainly based on Lord 
Curzon's work. Chardin's work, too, deserves study. 


and was finally claimed to be a monopoly for the export 
of silk from Persia. The civil war in England, which 
occurred at this period, naturally reacted unfavourably 
on the English position in Persia, where Shah Abbas and 
his nobles resented deeply the execution of Charles I. 
In the eighteenth century the situation changed : Holland, 
which had sacrificed everything to a monopoly of the 
spice trade, lost nearly all her colonial possessions in Asia 
to Great Britain, and her flag finally disappeared from the 
Persian Gulf. 

The French, — France was the latest power to approach 
Persia from the south. She effected litde until 1 664, when 
Colbert, the great minister who strove so hard to expand 
the foreign relations of his country, despatched an embassy 
to Shah Abbas II. This mission had a friendly reception, 
although it was felt that Persia had been sligjited because 
the envoys were not men of higher rank. Trading rights 
similar to those conceded to other nations and immunity 
from taxation and customs for three years were granted 
in a farman^ and upon the strength of these privileges 
factories were established at Isfahan and at Bandar Abbas. 
In 1708 Louis XIV. concluded a treaty with Shah Sultan 
Husayn, and the French traded with Persia until the 
Afghan invasion, after which they withdrew. During 
the reign of Karim Khan the island of Kharak was ceded 
to the French ; but it was never occupied, the French East 
India Company being at that period suppressed. Finally, 
during the short-lived period of French ascendancy at 
the Court of Fath Ali Shah in 1807-8 Kharak was again 
ceded, but with the expulsion of the French embassy 
from Persia in 1809 this cession was annulled. 

The Embassy of Sir Dodmore Cotton to Shah Abhas^ a.d. 
1627. — Among the far-reaching results of the capture of 
Hormuz by the two allies was the change it brought 
about in the commercial policy of Persia. As already 
mentioned, the Shah was mainly interested in the silk 
trade, and although Sir Robert Sherley had failed in his 
first mission to arrange for the export of the commodity 
via Hormuz, the Persian monarch by no means gave up 
the project. The expulsion of the Portuguese from the 


island emporium changed the whole situation. Two 
years later the appearance of Sir Robert Sherley on his 
second embassy, with a splendid retinue and in the 
enjoyment of a large pension, made a great impression 
in England. Although his exaggerated account of the 
wealth of Persia was discounted, a return mission was 
decided upon, and Sir Dodmore Cotton was sent, accom- 
panied by Sherley and the scholarly Herbert. The 
mission landed at Gombroon, " whereupon the Cannons 
from the Castle and Cittadel vomited out their choler, ten 
times roaring out their wrathful clamours." The route 
followed by practically all the English travellers at this 
period lay through Lar and Shiraz, where the present 
Bushire-Isfahan main route was struck. The monarch 
was not at his capital, and the envoys travelled on north- 
wards to AshraiF in the province of Mazanderan, where 
they were received in audience. 

After passing through various apartments in which 
gold plate was lavishly exhibited, the ambassadors were 
received by Shah Abbas. Sir Dodmore Cotton stated 
that he had made a very great journey to congratulate 
the monarch on his success against their common enemy 
the Turks ; also to promote trade and to make a per- 
petual league of friendship between England and Persia, 
and finally to see Sir Robert Sherley vindicate himself 
from the imputations of Nakd Ali Beg. The Shah, like a 
true son of Iran, replied that the Turks were a mean 
people and of no consequence, as was proved by his many 
victories over them. Nevertheless, he wished for unity 
among the Christian princes, as the Turkish conquests 
were due to their discord. As for trade, he was ready to 
deliver ten thousand bales every January at Gombroon, 
and would accept English cloth of equal value in exchange, 
so as to avoid being forced to export his silk through 
Turkey. Towards Sir Robert Sherley he expressed most 
friendly sentiments. Finally he drank the King of 
England's health in a bowl of wine, and, noting that the 
ambassador uncovered his head, he lifted up his turban. 

This reception was most satisfactory ; but owing to 
intrigues against Sir Robert Sherley, with whose private 




interests the mission, owing to the instructions of King 
James, was far too deeply involved, matters here termin- 
ated. The ambassador was practically ignored by the 
great nobles, no other audience was granted, and after 
reaching Kazvin both Sir Dodmore Cotton and Sir Robert 
Sherley died. 

Thus ended in gloom the second -^ embassy to Persia, 
the ambassador being buried in "a Dormitory amongst 
the Armenian graves ; who also with their priests and 
people very civilly assisted the ceremony.'* Though a 
partial failure, the mission undoubtedly increased English 
interest in Persia. As an indication of this it is worth 
noting that Charles I., a staunch patron of learning, 
requested the East India Company to procure him some 
Persian manuscripts. 

The Fortunes of the British, — By way of ^conclusion to 
this chapter, a word may be said of British fortunes under 
the later Safavi monarchs. Safi I. stipulated for an 
annual gift of ;^I500 and for the purchase annually of 
;^6o,ooo worth of his silk. This was to be paid for in 
goods to the extent of two-thirds, and in money to the 
extent of one-third. Almost from the start the Persians 
had failed to pay over to the British the stipulated share 
of the customs receipts of Bandar Abbas. There were 
constant complaints on this subject, and as the years 
passed the Persians, who thought the English made a 
very good thing out of the privileges they enjoyed, 
declined to reconsider the question. The amalgamation 
of the old and new East India Companies in 1708 put 
an end to internal friction, and the position of the 
factory remained strong and prosperous until the Afghan 

^ The first embassy to Arghun in 1291 is referred to in Chapter LVII. 




Isfahan is half the world. — Persian Pronjerb. 

Isfahan^ the Safavi Capital. — The masterpieces of 
Persian architecture under the Safavi monarchs are mostly 
to be found at Isfahan, and I therefore propose to describe 
the Safavi capital and some of its chief buildings which 
1 have examined.^ To do so is to describe the golden 
prime of medieval Persian architecture, which still serves 
as a model to-day, except in the cities of the north where 
Russian - designed houses have been adopted by the 
imitative sons of Iran. 

The Royal Square. — Isfahan is situated on the left or 
north bank of the Zenda Rud, on a level fertile piece of 
land, and at its zenith may have had a population of 
three hundred thousand inhabitants. Its heart was the 
Maydan-i-Shah, or " Royal Square,'* enclosed by long 
ranges of double-storied buildings ; Herbert declared it to 
be " as spacious, as pleasant and aromatick a Market as 
any in the Universe." The dimensions of the Maydan are 
560 yards by 174 yards, and, as it was the royal polo 
ground, these measurements are of some interest.^ The 
game of polo reached the height of its popularity at the 
period we have now reached, and matches are described 
by both Sherley and Chardin.^ The marble goal -posts 

^ In addition to my own notes, I have consulted Curzon's Pen'ia and Coatc's Monu- 
ments modernei de la Pcne j also the article on Persian Art in Encyclop. of Religion and 
Ethicsy ed. by James Hastings. 

^ The present measurements of a polo ground are 300 by 200 yards, 
^ Vide Ten Thousand Miles^ etc., p. 342, where I have collected the accounts of 
these travellers, 



are still standing, and many years ago, the morning after 
my arrival at Isfahan, I rose very early and knocked a 
polo ball between the posts, the first time such a thing 
had been done for perhaps two centuries. By this act I 
paid homage to a glorious past and expressed my gratitude 
to Persia for a game which is unequalled. 

The Royal Mosque, — Overlooking the imposing paral- 
lelogram is the Masjid-i-Shah, or " Royal Mosque,*' one of 
the finest existing examples of Persian architecture. To 
quote the masterly description by Lord Curzon : — " A 
lofty archway framed in a recess, embellished with interior 
honeycomb groining in enamelled faience, surrounded 
by tile inscriptions from the Koran, and flanked by two 
minarets with spiral bands of similar ornamentation, leads 
from the Maydan through a porch, containing a great 
vase or font of porphyry, into the inner count. Here the 
peculiar construction of the Mosque, already visible from 
the exterior, is fully apparent. The axis of the Maydan 
being almost due north and south, the architect required 
to incline the axis of the mosque considerably to the 
south-west, in order that the mihrab or prayer- niche 
might be turned in the direction of Mecca. This pur- 
pose was eflFected by architectural means that are at once 
grandiose and simple. The inner court, marble-paved 
and containing a great tank for ablutions in the centre, is 
surrounded by a two-storeyed arcade, undecorated save 
by bands of Kufic inscriptions in tile-work, white letters 
upon a blue ground. The arches are kept for the accom- 
modation of priests and attendants. On either side rises 
a lofty tile-faced aywan^ a mighty arch in which opens 
access to a space covered by a low dome. Opposite the 
entrance a third aywan^ flanked by minarets, conducts 
into the mosque proper, which is surmounted by the 
principal cupola, whose exterior, covered with exquisite 
tiles containing patterns in dark blue and green arabesque 
on an azure ground, is one of the principal land-marks in 
the city. On either sid-e of the shrine are further courts, 
with basins and porticoes, to which the public are admitted 
on Fridays. The decorative treatment of this beautiful 
building, though falling, like all other works of art in 


Persia, into decay, yet remains a superb sample of the 
style of the Safavi kings." 

The Ala Kapi, — On the east side of the Maydan is 
situated the Ala Kapi, or " Lofty Gate,'* by which the 
royal palace was entered. It may more correctly be 
described as a building in the form of a great arch on 
which was constructed a talar^ or open throne-room, sup- 
ported by the wooden columns which form a distinctive 
feature of Safavi architecture. Enthroned in state, the 
Shah gave audience at the No Ruz, or New Year, in this 
hall, which is declared by Chardin to be *' le plus beau 
Sallon de cette sorte que j*aye vA au monde.'* His 
Majesty also witnessed polo matches, horse races and 
wild beast combats from this same* building, in which he 
was visible to thousands of his subjects who filled the 
great square. 

The Chehel Sutun, — The Ala Kapi leads into the vast 
gardens, in which were many palaces. The most important 
building is the Chehel Sutun, or " Forty Columns/' ^ 
This splendid throne-room, with its roof constructed of 
the boles of great plane trees and supported by twenty 
columns made of the same tree, was formerly wainscoted 
with white marble, surmounted by mirror- work set in 
facets. Behind this verandah is the actual throne-room, 
from which opened a dais supporting the throne. Small 
rooms on either side were destined for the ministers 
and for service, and behind, extending the entire length 
of the building, is a long gallery with three immense oil* 
f)aintings on each side, three of which are reproduced in 
this work. To quote again from Lord Curzon, " they 
transport us straight to the court of the lordly Abbas and 
his predecessors or successors on the throne. We see 
the king engaged in combat, or at some royal festivity, 
enjoying the pleasures of the bowl. The big moustaches 
and smooth chins, and abundant turbans, represent a 
fashion of coiffure that has long expired. The arms and 
accoutrements of the warriors, the instruments of the 
musicians, the very gestures of the dancing-girls, open to 

^ The number "Forty" is not intended to be taken literally, any more than in the 
ca«e of Persepolis, which aUo has for one of iti name* the "Forty Columns." 






Khan, which even in decay must rank among the great 
bridges of the world. Approached by a paved causeway, 
it is entered through the usual gateway. The extraordinary 
feature of the bridge, which is 388 yards in length, with 
a paved roadway 30 feet wide, is that there are three 
distinct thoroughfares, at three separate levels. One of 
these is the roadway, on each side of which runs a covered 
arcade, opening by arches into the main road on one side 
and on to the river on the other. Here and there this 
arcade, or gallery, leads past chambers that were originally 
adorned with paintings. Above this main road, on the 
summit of the bridge, is a footway reached by steps, 
and below it a lower storey, to which similar steps 
descend. Here, just above the river-bed, a passage runs 
the entire length of the bridge. The only adverse 
criticism to be made is one which will be appreciated 
from the illustration, namely, that the bridge at most 
seasons of the year is a structure too fine for the exiguous 
stream of the Zenda Rud. 

Tiles. — The practice of covering buildings with tiles 
reached its zenith under the Safavi rulers, and this there- 
fore is a convenient place for a few remarks on the 
famous products of the Persian kilns. Ceramics certainly 
played an important part in Achaemenian architecture, and 
the Frieze of the Archers at Susa, mentioned in Chapter 
XV., is a superb example of the tiles of the period. But 
the art apparently disappeared, if, indeed, it was at that 
time practised on the Iranian plateau, which is doubtful ; 
therefore for our present purpose the tiles of the 
Achaemenian period may be disregarded. 

In the first rank is the faience h reflet^ or lustred tiles. 
There is much doubt about the original home of these 
products, of which the oldest dated pieces, bearing dates 
A.D. 864-75, ^^^ stated to be in Tunis. -^ In a.d. 1035 
the celebrated Nasiri Khusru gives an interesting account 
of lustre ware, which apparently did not at that period 
exist in Iran : but, wherever the art came into being, it 
is in Persia that it attained a beauty which stamps it for 
all time as the noblest creation of the potter. What has 

^ Vide "The Godman Collection" in the Connoisseur for September 1903. 





added to the Interest of the lustre tile Is the fact that it 
represents a lost art. It is known indeed that the soft 
paste was covered with an opaque glaze, generally white 
or blue, and then baked. As a second process alloys of 
gold, silver, copper and other metals were painted, and 
the tile was baked again. These alloys produced colours 
ranging from gold to ruby red and from turquoise blue 
to brown ; and no experiments have succeeded In success- 
fully imitating the superb beauty of the Persian ceramics. 
The finest specimen of lustre In my possession consists 
of a tile measuring 24 inches by 1 8^ inches. The ground 
is brown and on it are sapphire blue letters an Inch wide, 
standing up half an inch in relief and with turquoise blue 
conventional leaves. Unfortunately, although many large 
fragments of these tiles were brought to me, it was Im- 
possible to fit them together into a complete specimen, 
but even in Its Imperfect condition Its beauty is great. 

The tiles without lustre which were manufactured 
under the Timurids, and again under the Safavis, are also 
very beautiful. Every colour Is used, but the scroll-work 
Is so artistic and the mixture of the colours so perfect 
that an effect Is produced of deep richness, which Is 
enhanced when the tiles are seen on some stately quad- 
rangle or portico, with the cloudless blue of the Persian 
sky as a background. Here again It is very diflScult to 
trace the artistic Influences at work in the production of 
the tiles ; but there is no doubt that Chinese art, which 
was introduced by the Mongols, powerfully affected the 
impressionable Persian In tile-making as It did also in 
painting, although Persian art never lost Its marked 
individuality In colour, shape and design. 

Pottery. — Not only in tiles, but in pottery also, the 
Persian artists achieved great beauty of shape, design and 
colour. Here, too, Chinese Influence may be observed, 
and it Is interesting to learn from Chardin that the Dutch 
sold " the porcelain of Meshed and Kerman " to customers 
in Europe, pretending that It came from China. Perhaps 
the finest Persian pottery Is the imitation Celadon ware, 
in which Chinese designs are copied, but associated with 
Persian characteristics. The Persian ware, which is white 

VOL. II u 


and translucent, has a beauty of its own, and perhaps 
surpasses its model in freedom and boldness of design. 
Even comparatively modern Persian basins and plates of 
a creamy white paste with coloured floral decoration are 
distinctly attractive and are beginning to be noticed by 
the collector. 

Carpets. — The carpets of Persia form an almost in- 
exhaustible theme, and although numerous works have 
appeared on this subject a really good book still remains 
to be written. The antiquity of the carpet is great, 
references to it dating back to the third millennium B.C., 
and Sir George Birdwood-^ is of opinion that there has j 
been " no material modification in the artistic and technical! 
character " since the earliest description of these fabrics. 
It must, however, be noted that the imposition of Islam 
on Persia affected their designs, which fall into two classes : 
{a) Those expressing the Shia spirit in animals, trees, 
blossoms, flowers, with free graceful scrolls, conventional 
arabesques and cartouches enclosing inscriptions ; and 
{F) those in which the design, reflecting the Sunni 
austerity, is limited to geometrical and angular forms, 
such as the Turkoman carpets with their bazuband^ or 
" armlet " patterns. 

To this spirit we mainly owe the wonderful develop- 
ment in Persia of floral and geometrical designs and of 
arabesques on which the patterns of our curtains, of our 
wall-papers, of our carpets, and of many other articles 
are based in England to-day. To quote Birdwood, " the 
new and severely conventionalised floral type, applied 
either as a diaper, or in the ' Tree of Life ' and ' Knop 
and Flower ' patterns, gradually prevailed ; and as modified 
in the freer drawing and more natural delineations of the 
Italianesque Abbasi carpets, it characterises the predominant 
denominations of Persian carpets." 

Under the Sasanian dynasty Persian fabrics known 
as Susancherd were highly prized in the West, and when 
Ctesiphon was captured by Sad, among the loot was a 

1 "The Antiquity of Oriental Carpets," Journal Royal Socy, of Arts for November 

^ A bazuband is generally an octagonal metal box containing a portion of the 
Koran j it is worn to afford protection. 


silk carpet, 60 ells long. The design represented was 
a fir dans ^ or garden, with running streams marked out 
by crystals, the ground in gold thread, the leaves 
worked in silk and the blossoms represented by precious 

The tradition of this marvellous carpet, which was 
probably not the only specimen made, was never lost, and 
an example believed to have been woven for Shah Abbas 
has been preserved. Of this I am able to give an illus- 
tration, which deserves careful examination. The carpet, 
woven in wool, is divided into the four customary plots 
by the main stream of water, crossed by a smaller stream. 
To quote from Mrs. Villiers Stuart, " the characteristic 
canals, the special feature of the type, are unequal in 
length, but their form is only a modification of the older 
cosmic cross. The central pavilion is very small, little 
more than a fountain basin, in which four birds swim, a 
curious mixture of swan and royal peacock. The carpet 
shows the old symbolic avenues of cypress and flowering 
fruit-trees with their mystic birds beak to beak and tulip 
border close to the stream. Four large plane trees are 
planted at the angles of the pavilions forming an outer 
avenue, and trees fill the squares at the corners of the 
central tank." ^ 

It is impossible to write, however briefly, about Persian 
carpets without a reference to the exquisite 40- foot 
carpet from the Shrine of Ardebil, which, as the inscription 
proves, was woven in the reign of Shah Tahmasp, in 
A.H. 946 (1540). Thanks to English patriotism it was 
bought for the nation and is now one of the most prized 
treasures of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The 
ground is of dark blue, the medallions are yellow and 
the cartouches and borders are red. From the great 
central group of medallions lamps depend, and the tracery 
is so rich and so natural that the carpet resembles a 
beautiful picture. 

One of the most convincing proofs of Persian genius 
in carpets is the remarkable variety of design, every 

^ Gardens of the Great Mughah, p. 149, by C. M. Villiers Stuart, a most charming 


nomad tribe weaving a separate pattern ; while there is 
an enormous difference between the bright joyousness of 
the carpets of Kerman, displaying Shia tendencies, and 
the sombre, but infinitely rich, colours of the austere 
Sunni Turkoman fabrics. Both are treasures to the 
collector, and so also are good specimens of the rugs all 
over Persia, from Kurdistan on the west to Khorasan on 
the east It is perhaps worth mentioning that the irregu- 
larities in colour or design are introduced for the purpose 
of averting the evil eye ; that beasts and flowers alike 
have their emblematical or symbolical meaning ; that the 
" Tree of Life '* has survived from Sumerian to modern 
times ; and that what is believed to be a Chinese seal is 
now incorporated in the border of many Turkoman 

In addition to carpets there is the namad^ or felt, 
manufactured by rolling wool into a solid mass. The 
finest specimens made at Kerman are of a fawn colour, 
and, weighing less than a carpet, are on that account 
valued by travellers ; the coarser quality is used as a 
heavy horse covering in winter. Neither of these 
varieties is exported. 

The shawls of Persia with their embroideries are 
highly prized in the East. The European prefers rich 
embroidery, the needlework praised by Marco Polo, who 
wrote : " The ladies of the country and their daughters 
also produce exquisite needlework in the embroidery of 
silk stuffs in different colours, with figures of beasts, trees, 
and flowers and a variety of other patterns. They work 
hangings for the use of noblemen so deftly that they are 
marvels to see, as well as cushions, pillows, quilts, and 
all sorts of things.** 

The embossed brocades are very beautiful and so are 
the ancient velvets of Kashan ; and it is sad to know that 
Persian ladies despise their own exquisite fabrics and 
prefer the inferior products of Europeari looms. It is 
in patterns as well as in quality that the Persians were 
supreme, and there is very little in the old art, from the 
stamped calico of Isfahan to the embroidered saddle-cloths 
of Resht, which is not appreciated by the European and 


American collector. Nor was the fame of Persian stuffs 
md colours unknown in medieval Europe, light blue 
material being termed " pers " in English, as in other 
anguagcs of the day. 

Piiinihig. — By Moslem rule the human figure cannot 
be represented in art. Fortunately this was subject to 
exceptions, and descriptions are extant of pictures painted 
in the schools of Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, in which 
such figures appear. Few of the works of these artists 
have survived, but the Austrian traveller Musil discovered 
in the Syrian desert figure paintings of the eighth 
century. The most important is a large picture in 
which the Byzantine Emperor, the Caliph and the 
Chosroes are pourtrayed ; other figures of the ninth 
century have been found at Samarra. The frescoes dis- 
covered by Stein at Khotan may also be studied J 

Among the earliest dated miniature paintings — and in 
Persian art pictures on a small scale are the best — is a 
work of the Abbasid school from Baghdad, the date of 
which, A.D. 1222, is beyond dispute. It shows strongly the 
influence of Byzantine art. But this art was soon almost 
forgotten, and shortly afterwards Chinese influence became 
equidly strong, only to be shaken ofi^ in its turn. The 
sack of Baghdad by Hulagu in a.d. 1258 is believed to 
have dealt the death-blow to Arab art based on old 
tradition, and at the same time to have given birth to 
true Persiaii art. This at first was Persian Mongolian, 
still showing traces of Byzantine influence. Its promise 
was great, greater indeed than its accomplishment, for 
the overpowering desire for material beautv mastered all 
idea of dramatic pourtrayal. 

At the end of the fourteenth century, by which time 
Tamerlane had conquered Persia, the art had reached its 
zenith. There is a perfect equilibrium between drawing 
and colour, but the appeal is made by the artist to the 
eye, and to the eye alone ; in other words, the soul is 
wanting. The general impression is that of a scene 
pourtra}'eJ with a mass of colours, skilfully blended to 

^ I have consulted Dr. Martin's MsK-.irw^ Pjiitttiiigs ji*/ PMnttrs efPtrsL:, eu. j also 
Gay«t'$ L\irt fitrsj-:. I have to thank Dr. Dieti^ of the University of Vienna, for 
the note on MuslTs discovery. 



produce an eflFect of great richness. The border is 
frequently composed of verses most artistically woven into 
the picture ; and here it may be noted that the Persian 
painter is also frequently a calligraphist, and that no other 
people are so skilled in using the alphabet for decorative 
purposes. The failure would appear to be that the figures 
never tell their own story from the expression, but resemble 
waxen figures set in exquisite surroundings. Nature is 
not studied for its own beauty, but in order to explain 
the subject of the picture, and to act as a sympathetic and 
illustrative background. 

The themes of the Persian artist are few in number 
and are generally confined to well-known events such 
as the meeting between Khusru and Shirin, and Majnun 
and Layla. During the Safavi period European figures 
were introduced. Religious subjects were rarely attempted. 
The Persian painter groups badly, but draws well. His 
figures are less important than the accessories, such as 
clothes, jewelry and weapons, which are reproduced with 
infinite pains. The colouring is excellent and the re- 
sults are distinctly pleasing, although apt to strike the 
European as unfamiliar and at times as bordering on the 

Metal Work, — The genius of Persia, so strongly ex- 
pressed in ceramics and textiles, was equally visible in 
metal work of every kind. In shape, and above all in 
decoration, the Persian metal worker was unsurpassed, 
and his armour and swords enjoyed a wide reputation. 
To this Marco Polo testifies : " They are very skilful in 
making harness of war ; their saddles, bridles, spurs, 
swords, bows, quivers, and arms of every kind are very 
well made." Vessels of all sorts abound, from the drink- 
ing-cup of the poor man to the great cauldron of the 
rich, and in them all there is a beauty of form and design 
which is most attractive. Of modern art, the gold and 
silver filigree work of Zenjan and the Khatamkari^ or 
mosaics, of Shiraz are worthy of attention ; nor can the 
carved spoons of Abadeh be omitted from any list, how- 
ever brief. 

^ These remarks are based on the review of Martin's work in The Times. 

Fascal Cos ft: 



The examples of Persian art which can be seen in the 
Victoria and Albert Museum and elsewhere prove that, 
although Persia adopted much, she invariably improved 
on her models ; and as the years pass the work of her 
old artists and craftsmen is becoming more and more 
appreciated in the great centres of the West. 

Shah Husayn. 



Un Aide des C^r^monles conduisit I'Ambassadeur. II le fit descendre de 
cheval k cent pas environ du grand Portail et le mena fort vite au Sallon oia 
^toit le Roi. Le Capitaine de la porte le prit li, et le conduisit au baiser des 
pieds du Roi. Ce Salut se fait en cette sorte. On m^ne TAmbassadeur i 
quatre pas du Roi vis-i-vis delui, ou on I'arr^te, et on le met k genoux, et 
on lui fait faire trois fois un prosternement du corps et de la tete en terre, 
si bas, que le front y touche. L'Ambassadeur se relive apr^s, et d^livre la 
lettre qu'il a pour le Roi au Capitaine de la porte qui la met dans les mains 
du Roi, et le Roi la met k c6t^ droit sans la regarder. On m^ne ensuite 
I'Ambassadeur k la place qui lui est destin^e. — Chardin, iii. 221. 

The Cause of the Decline. — Few dynasties have lived 
SO long and so successfully upon their reputation as did 
that of the Safavis after the death of Shah Abbas. To 
some extent their great monarch must be held responsible 
for the degeneracy of his successors, since by his orders 
they were brought up in the anderun among eunuchs and 
women, and not trained to arms, as had been invariably 
the custom until it was altered by the imperious old man. 
It is obvious that by this change he hoped to avoid the 
risk of being killed by a capable member of his own 
family, and he either failed to realize, or was indifferent 
to, the inevitable results of the new system. 

The policy succeeded only too well, and throughout 
a second century, during which the dynasty continued to 
rule Persia, there was no able monarch to sit on the 
throne of his ancestors. Yet, owing to the reverence 



felt for the sacred house, its rule was accepted by the 
people until the virility of the nation itself was corrupted. 
Then an awful penalty had to be paid in blood and shame 
for neglect of all the precautions by which the existence 
of states is preserved. 

Shah Safi^K.n. 1038-1052 (1629-1642). — Shah Abbas, 
when dying, ordered that Sam Mirza, son of the un- 
fortunate Safi Mirza^ should be proclaimed his successor. 
The new monarch took the title of Shah Safi, and his 
reign of thirteen years was one long chapter of executions. 
He murdered the princes of the blood royal, and even 
some of the princesses, and, not content with thus secur- 
ing his power, deliberately put to death all his grandfather's 
most trusted councillors and generals. Among his victims 
was Imam Kuli Khan, the conqueror of Hormuz. We 
learn from Tavernier and Olearius, who with Chardin 
constitute our chief authorities for the period, that the 
great noble was warned not to venture to court, but 
relying on his long years of faithful service he obeyed 
the summons and was put to death. His sons shared 
his fate, lest they should avenge his death when they 
grew up. 

The Holstetn Embassy^ 1637.- — -The pioneer efforts of 
Jenkinson to trade with Persia across Russia ended in 
failure, as recorded in Chapter LXII. A fresh effort was 
made in the seventeenth century from a new quarter, but 
by the same route. The silk manufactures of Holstein 
were considerable and, the raw silk of Persia attracting 
the attention of its merchants, the Duke decided to 
despatch Brucman, a Hamburg merchant who had 
originated the scheme, on an embassy to the Shah. 

The mission made disadvantageous arrangements with 
the Grand Duke of Muscovy for free transit, and upon 
arriving in Persia found that the freight and customs 
charges would eat up all the profits. Brucman, to avoid 
returning empty-handed, then tried to negotiate an 
alliance against Turkey. The failure and blunders which 
cost him his life are recorded in the work of Adam 
Olearius,^ who was the secretary of the mission. The 

^ Relation de 'voyage^ Paris, 1639. 


negative results were perhaps of some value, as it was 
proved once more that owing to bad and dangerous 
communications and the great distance the trade would 
not be profitable. 

The Uzbegs. — At the very end of the sixteenth century 
there was a change in the dynasty of the Uzbegs. When 
the Russians absorbed the Khanate of Astrakhan, the 
dispossessed chief took refuge at Bokhara, where he was 
warmly welcomed by Iskandar, the last monarch of the 
Shaybanid dynasty. Jani Khan, son of the refugee prince, 
married the daughter of Iskandar, and after the murder 
of the latter was offered the throne ; he, however, declined 
it in favour of his son, who founded the Astrakhan 
dynasty, which lasted until the end of the eighteenth 
century. The relations of Bokhara with Persia were 
unchanged, invasions by the Uzbegs into Khorasan being 
undertaken with varying success. In a.h. 1017 (1608) 
a great sovereign appeared in the person of Imam Kuli, 
who seized the throne, and during his reign of thirty- 
eight years Bokhara recovered some part of her ancient 
wealth and prosperity. His rule was not aggressive and 
only one raid into Khorasan is mentioned, which was 
repulsed by the generals of Shah Safi. But greater 
success was met with at Kandahar, where the Persian 
Governor evacuated the city upon the approach of the 
Uzbegs and, marching off with the garrison to Delhi, 
entered the service of the Moghul Emperor. 

The Capture of Hamadan by the Turks ^ a.h. 1039 
(1630). — During the reign of Shah Safi another of the 
almost constant wars with Turkey broke out. At this 
period the throne of Othman was occupied by Murad IV., 
the last fighting sultan, whose offensive policy was a 
serious menace to Persia. The first campaign was 
directed against Hamadan. The Turkish army marched 
to Mosul, where it was delayed by heavy rains. It then 
entered Kurdistan, defeated a Persian army, and in a.h. 
1039 (1630) captured Hamadan. 

The inhabitants of the ancient capital of Media were 
massacred and the city was sacked for six days, during 
which the buildings were destroyed and even the trees 

*'. t 




O '^ 

!r .-2 o 

^^ o 


were cut down. From the scene of this barbarous excess 
the army marched across the Zagros against Baghdad. 
This city was strongly held by a determined garrison, and 
although the bombardment levelled the walls, the assault 
which followed was repulsed, thousands of Turks being 
buried in the ruins. After this failure the Turkish army 
retreated on Mosul. In the following year a fresh 
campaign was attempted, but the disgrace of the Grand 
Vizier and a series of mutinies that followed gave Persia 
a much-needed respite. 

The Erivan Campaign^ a.h. 1045 (^^35)- — During 
the first twelve years of his reign Murad had never gone 
further than Adrianople in Europe and Brusa in Asia ; 
he now took the field in person. His first campaign was 
directed against Erivan, which capitulated on terms in 
A.H. 1045 (^^35)' Tabriz, the next objective, was 
occupied without resistance. In spite of this it was 
deliberately destroyed, the Blue Mosque being saved 
only by the entreaties of the Mufti, who pointed out that 
it had been built by a Sunni. This concluded the 
season's operations, and the Sultan returned in triumph 
to Constantinople. Shah Safi had not dared to face the 
Turkish army, but upon its departure he besieged Erivan. 
The efforts made by the Turkish authorities to come to 
the aid of the garrison were futile, and after its surrender 
in the spring of 1636 the Shah returned to Isfahan. 

The Capture of Baghdad^ a.h. 1048 (1638). — Three 
years later Murad marched on Baghdad, moving, as in the 
former campaign, by way of Mosul. On the very day 
of his arrival the siege of Baghdad was begun. The 
Sultan shared the perils and hardships with his soldiers 
and under his personal supervision extraordinary energy 
was shown. Although the Grand Vizier was killed in 
leading an assault, the Turks were not to be denied, and 
on the fortieth day they regained possession of the city, 
fifteen years after its capture by the Persians. Murad 
offered terms to the garrison, but as the resistance was 
continued in isolated towers the Ottoman soldiery 
massacred them all. During the siege Shah Safi had 
appeared at Kasr-i-Shirin with 12,000 men, but this 


force was too weak to effect anything of importance. 
Shortly afterwards peace was made on the terms of the 
actual position, Baghdad, which had been strongly 
garrisoned, being retained by Turkey and Erivan by 

Abbas IL^ 1052-1077 (i 642-1 667). — Shah Safi was 
succeeded by his son Abbas II., a boy of ten, and for 
some years, under his Ministers, there was evidently a 
reaction to a more austere tone, wine-bibbing being regarded 
as a bar to office. But, as was to be expected, the young 
Shah when he attained his majority indulged in the vices 
of the period, and all European travellers without distinc- 
tion were admitted to share his orgies. Apart from this, 
the country was apparently prosperous and happy, and 
Kandahar was recovered by an army led by the young 
Shah in person. Architecture flourished during his reign. 
To him we owe the stately quadrangle of the Sahn-i-Kuhna, 
or " Old Court," at Meshed, the portico of which is a 
particularly fine example of Safavi architecture combined 
with the potter's art.^ 

The Uzbeg Refugees. — In the time of Abbas II. an 
Uzbeg prince sought the protection of the Shah, and was 
treated with extraordinary generosity and honour. Later 
Nazir Mohamed, the Uzbeg monarch, threw himself on 
Persian hospitality, and met with similar disinterested 
kindness, an army being placed at his disposal to aid him 
in asserting his rights. There was, indeed, a certain 
chivalrous spirit in the Safavi monarchs, who never showed 
to greater advantage than in their treatment of refugees 
and foreign travellers. 

The First Russian Embassy to Persia, a.d. 1664.^-It is 
difficult to realize that Russia, whose frontiers are now 
conterminous with those of Persia from Ararat on the 
west to Kalat-i-Nadiri and Sarakhs on the east, had practi- 
cally no relations with Iran until some two and a half 
centuries ago. The first recorded embassy was from 
the Emperor Alexis,^ usually termed the Grand Duke 

1 Fide my "Historical Notes on Khorasan," Journal R.A.S. for October 1910, 

p. 1 133. 

2 He was the father of Peter the Great, and curiously enough in this very year he 
received an embassy from Charles II. of England. 


of Muscovy, and consisted of two envoys with 800 
followers. With the habitual generous hospitality of the 
Safavisj the Muscovites were entertained in a splendid 
palace, but it soon transpired that they were really 
merchants who had been permitted to assume the r61e of 
ambassadors in order to evade the payment of the customs 
dues. Abbas was justly incensed at this duplicity, and 
the Muscovites were thereupon treated with contempt and 
dismissed without a formal reply. In revenge for this 
affront the Grand Duke instigated the Cossacks of 
Southern Russia to raid Mazanderan. At first they were 
successful and burned Farrahabad, the capital. They then 
entrenched themselves in the peninsula of Midn Kala, 
close to the present Russian naval station at Ashurada, 
but were driven out of their position. This raid was the 
first act of Russian aggression against Persia.^ - 

SulaymiDi, a.h. 1077-1105 (1667-1694). — Safi, the 
eldest son of Abbas, was twenty years of age at the time 
of his fiither*s death. Unwilling to accept a grown man as 
their sovereign, the Ministers pretended to believe that the 
young Prince, who had been kept immured in the anderun^ 
had been blinded, and on this account proposed to enthrone 
his infant brother. The intrigue, however, was defeated 
by the loyalty of a eunuch, and Safi ascended the throne 
under the title of Sulayman. 

The decline of the dynasty proceeded placidly under 
the new monarch, who was a voluptuary and unwarlike. 
The seizure of Kishm by the Dutch did not rouse him to 
action, nor was he disturbed by the Uzbeg inroads into 
Khorasan. Bad health in his later years confined him to 
his anderun^ where he fell entirely under the influence of 
eunuchs and women ; but even so the country appeared 
to remain tranquil and the dynasty enjoyed its Indian 
summer. Sulayman maintained the traditional splendour 
of the Safevi Court. Chardin gives a vivid description of 
the scene in the Maydan-i-Shah on a day of festival : 
" Le 16. Sur les huit heures du matin on vit la Place 
Royale arros^e de bout en bout, & ornde comme je vais 
le dire. A c6t6 de la grand entree du Palais Royal, \ 

^ Chardin, Coronation of King Solyman III., pp. 152-54. 


vingt pas de distance, il y avoit douze Chevaux des plus 
beaux de T^curie du Roi, six de chaque cdt^, couverts de 
harnois les plus superbes & magnifiques qu'on puisse 
voir au monde. Quatre harnois dtoient d'Emeraudes, 
deux de Rubis, deux de pierres de couleur m^l6es avec 
des Diamans, deux autres 6toient d'Or 6maill6 & deux 
autres de fin Or lisse. ... A trente pas des Chevaux, il 
y avoit des B6tes farouches dress^es a combattre centre 
des jeunes Taureaux. Deux Lions, un Tygre, et un 
Leopard, attachez, & chacun 6tendu sur un grand Tapis 
d'^carlate, la tete tourn^e vers le Palais.'' ^ 

During his long reign Sulayman received many 
embassies, and among the most brilliant was one from 
France, whose ambassador termed himself " General and 
Ambassador from the Great King of Europe.*' He also 
continued the tradition of the family at Meshed, and 
repaired the golden dome which had been damaged by an 
earthquake, mentioned by Chardin. In commemoration 
of this pious deed an inscription may be read, dated 
A.H. 1086 (1676), in which he refers to himself as "The 
Reviver of the ancient ruins of his Ancestors." ^ 

The Musalla, or " Place of Prayer," outside Meshed 
was also constructed in this reign. The main arch is 
decorated with a long quotation from the Koran in white 
letters on a blue background, and on each side near the 
ground are ten lines of an inscription with yellow letters 
on a blue ground.^ The building is striking even in 

its decay. 

The Accession of Shah Sultan Husayn^ a.h. i 105 (1694). 
— It is stated that when Sulayman lay on his deathbed he 
said to his eunuch advisers, " If you wish for ease, elevate 
Husayn Mirza ; if you desire the glory of Persia, Abbas 
Mirzay Needless to say, the former son was chosen, 
and upon his accession he proved a mixture of meekness 
and piety, qualities as much out of place as in the case of 
Edward the Confessor, his English prototype. He was 
also noted for his uxoriousness. The piety of Husayn, 
translated into action, placed mullas and eunuchs in the 

1 Vol. iii. p. 219. 
^ Historical Notes, etc., p. 1137. ^ Ibid. p. 1153. 



posts that should have been held by the great nobles, and 
the whole nation was thereby dangerously weakened. 
The right of sanctuary was extended to all colleges, whose 
occupants thus became entided to protect murderers, a 
most dangerous privilege ; and the monarch himself re- 
fused to order the death penalty. Peace was enjoyed ; 
but, sunk in this, the nation did not realize that it was 
only the lull before the storm, and when the storm broke 
their leaders were not capable of coping with it. 

The Embassies of Peter the Great^ a.d. 1708 and 17 15. 
— In A.H. 1 120 (1708) Peter the Great despatched an 
embassy to the Court at Isfahan, headed by an Armenian 
named Israel Orii. This adventurer was accompanied 
by a train of 700 followers, many of whom were 
merchants who took advantage of the opportunity to 
escape customs dues. The size of the embassy and the 
aggressive character of the Tsar aroused much alarm at 
Isfahan, and a rumour was circulated that it was intended 
to seize Georgia and Armenia. The embassy, however, 
was received with all honour in spite of its semi-com- 
mercial character. Shah Husayn being unable to treat 
the envoys of Peter as his ancestor had treated those of 
Alexis. Seven years later another embassy reached 
Persia, under the talented Artemii Volinski, and, as 
will appear in a future chapter, Peter the Great was 
evidendy paving the way for action of a distinctly aggres- 
sive character. 

The Failure in the Persian Gulf. — In the Persian Gulf 
the position of Persia was unsatisfactory and weak. Sultan 
bin Sayf II., according to the Oman history, "made war 
on the enemy by sea and land and encountered the 
Persians in many places. . . . He also attacked and took 
al-Bahrein." ^ The Persians were helpless without a fleet, 
and appealed to the Portuguese, who agreed to render 
assistance. The Portuguese, however, were in a very 
different position from that which they occupied while 
Maskat was in their possession, and on attempting to sail 
up the Gulf they were attacked and defeated by the fleet 

1 The Imams of Omarif p. 93. Bahrein is the island in this case, and not the 

304 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, lxvi 

of the Imam.^ Consequently the Persian general, Lutf 
Ali Khan, a brother-in-law of Fatteh AH Khan the Vizier, 
was obliged to adopt a purely defensive attitude, and to 
garrison Bandar Abbas and other ports against the raids 
from Oman, which became more and more serious as 
time went by. 

^ According to Krusinaici, the Portuguese refused to transport the troops, owing to 
the non-payment of the sum of money agreed upon. 

Mahmud of Ghazni. 



As a race the Ghilji mix little with their neighbours, and indeed differ 
in many respects, both as to internal government and domestic customs, from 
the other races of Afghanistan. . . . The pastoral clans are notoriously 
predatory in their habits. — Bel lew, The Races of Afghanistan. * 

A Sketch of Afghanistan. — By way of preface to this 
chapter, I propose to give a brief description of the 
country which, since the middle of the eighteenth century, 
has been known as the kingdom of Afghanistan.^ Merk 
aptly points out that geographically Afghanistan is the 
Switzerland of Asia. In both countries there are great 
central masses from which secondary ranges radiate far 
and wide, and the Kuh-i-Baba to the north of Kabul may 
be compared with the St. Gothard. Both countries lie at 
the head of peninsulas stretching south, and both are 
isolated from the central continents to their north by high 
ranges extending far to the east and west. As geographers 
would point out, the physical similarity would make for 
political similarity. 

Its Inhabitants, — Afghanistan, owing to its physical 
characteristics, has been the haven of refuge of aboriginal 
clans driven off the fertile plains. Moreover, being 
situated at the north-west gates of India, it has heard the 
tramp of armies from the invasion by Alexander the 
Great down through the centuries, until the doubling of 

^ The best general account of Afghanistan is the article by M. Longworth Dames in 
the Encyclopaedia of Islam. A good paper was recently read before the Central Asian 
Society by W. R. Merk. I have also referred to the contemporary History of the late 
Rcvoluticns in Persia by Father Krusinski, which is of considerable value. 

VOL. II 305 X 


the Cape of Good Hope opened a way for western 
nations to invade India by its sea gates. 

The dominant population of this interesting land is 
termed Pathan, or " Speakers of Pashtu," ' towards the 
borders of India, and in the west Afghan, or Aoghan, a 
word the derivation of which is obscure. I.ongworth 
Dames points out that Pathan is the real name, and that 
the term Afghan, first applied by foreigners, appears to 
be of literary origin ; it has now been adopted as a polite 
designation by the upper classes. 

The two great tribes are the Durranis, the present 
ruling tribe, and the Ghilzais, or more correctly Ghalzais 
(termed Ghilji by Bellew), both of which are referred to 
below. These tribes may be roughly described as in- 
habiting eastern and southern Afghanistan respectively. 
To the north of the Hindu Kush the population is mainly 
Uzbeg ; the heart of the country is inhabited by Mongol 
Hazaras, Taimani and Chahar Aimak, and the Herat 
province by Aryan Tajiks, while east of Kabul, in Wakhan, 
Roshan, and above all Kafiristan, there is an ethnological 
collection of peoples of the greatest interest, consisting 
of ancient Aryan tribes and broken clans which have 
taken refuge in these inaccessible mountain valleys. The 
population, of perhaps five millions altogether, may be 
divided into two equal classes, of Afghan and non-Afghan 
elements. The Afghans themselves favour the theory 
that they are descended from scions of the royal house 
of Judah who were exiled to these distant mountains, but 
this is not believed by any serious student of the subject, 
and it is safer to accept the view that the foreign elements 
were numerous, and that the Afghans are racially of 
Aryan origin and link India to the east with Persia to 
the west. The Afghans and Uzbegs are Sunnis, whereas 
the Persian element and the Hazaras are Shias. More- 
over, Pashtu being rather a dialect than a language, the 
written language and literature are Persian, which is 
spoken by all Afghans of consideration. 

The Province of Kandahar, — Our attention is now 

^ Pashtu or Pakhtu is the name of the language. The people are called ['ashtOn 
or PakhtQn in the singular. The plural of this, Pashtana or Pakhtana, has given rise 
to the form Pathan. 


particularly turned towards the province of Kandahar. 
Humayun, by the aid of a Persian army, took Kandahar 
in A.H. 952 (1545), and in recognition of the services 
rendered to him by Tahmasp, ceded it to his benefactor, 
but subsequently took back the gift. Shortly afterwards 
the province was annexed by Abbas the Great, but upon 
his death it was seized by the Uzbegs through the defec- 
tion of its Persian governor, as mentioned in the previous 
chapter. The Uzbegs were driven out in a.h. 102 i 
(1634) by Shah Jahan, and in turn the province was 
recovered by Abbas II. in a.h. 1037 (1650). The 
Moghul emperors of India again and again besieged 
this veritable " bone of contention," Aurangzeb himself, 
on one occasion, taking the field in person. But the 
natural strength of the city defied all efforts, and conse- 
quently the province still formed part of the Persian 
empire in the time of Shah Husayn. 

The Ghilzais, — The Ghilzai tribe are a mixed race.^ 
To-day they number perhaps one hundred thousand 
families, and at the period under consideration were the 
most powerful tribe in the province of Kandahar. As the 
account given of the fortunes of the province proves, its 
overlords had been constantly changing, and the wild 
Ghilzais at this period were suspected, probably with 
good reason, of intriguing with the Court of Delhi. 

The Appointment of Gurgin Khan, — It was consequently 
decided to appoint George or Gurgin Khan, Prince of 
Georgia, to govern this turbulent province, and he marched 
into its capital with a powerful army composed of twenty 
thousand Persians and a Georgian contingent. No re- 
sistance to this overwhelming force was attempted, the 
disloyal chiefs were cowed, and the yoke of Persia was 
riveted on the province more securely than before. The 
inhabitants were treated as conquered rebels, and the 
oppression to which they were exposed, together with the 
intriguing nature of the chiefs, led to the despatch of 
secret missions to Isfahan with complaints against the 
harshness of the Governor. 

1 The Ghilzais are generally believed to be identical with the Khalj mentioned by 
Idrisi, but Longworth Dames considers this very doubtful {•vide his article " Ghalzai " in 
Part XX. oi Encyclopaedia of Islam). 



Mir Vats. — Gurgin Khan, on his side, was fully aware 
of the plot, and determined to strike at its head in 
the person of Mir Vais (or Wais, as Afghans would 
pronounce it), a leading chief of the Ghilzais and heredi- 
tary Kalantar^ or Mayor, of Kandahar. Accordingly he 
was seized and sent a prisoner to the capital. At the 
same time Gurgin wrote that it was necessary for the 
peace of the province that this arch-intriguer should be 
kept away from Afghanistan. His unusual leniency was 
a main cause of the overthrow of Persia ; for Mir Vais 
was able through his wealth and his capacity to influence 
the Court, and the captive became a favourite of the Shah. 

In order to strengthen his position among his fellow- 
countrymen, he obtained permission to proceed to Mecca. 
There, while performing his pilgrimage, he procured in 
writing a decision from the leading doctors of religious 
law that it was not only permissible but meritorious to 
make war on and to destroy all Shias. Such documents 
would even to-day carry immense weight in Afghanistan, 
and two centuries ago their potency must have been very 
much greater. Upon his return to the capital, Mir Vais 
was indirectly aided in his schemes by the embassy of 
Peter the Great, recorded in the previous chapter. He 
insinuated that it was the intention of that monarch to 
seize Armenia and Georgia, and that Gurgin Khan was a 
leading conspirator in the plot. The Court, thoroughly 
alarmed, dared not dismiss Gurgin Khan, but as a half 
measure restored Mir Vais to his former post and in a.h. 
1 1 20 (1708) sent him back to Kandahar. 

The Murder of Gurgin Khan and the Massacre of the 
Persian Garrison^ a.h. 1121 (1709). — Gurgin Khan, 
furious at the slight, resolved to take revenge on Mir 
Vais, and by this act at once to overawe the province 
and to demonstrate his contempt for the Court. Having 
heard that the Chief possessed a beautiful daughter, he 
suddenly demanded her from her father. The latter 
assembled the heads of the tribe, who, moved by indig- 
nation, swore death to the Christian tyrant by bread and 
salt, by their swords, and by the Koran. Mir Vais 
dissembled, and in order to lull his enemy into a sense of 


false security, sent him a handsome girl whom he passed 
off as his daughter. The Prince was entirely duped, and 
finding the Chief apparently submissive, relented and 
began to treat him with kindness. This gave the crafty 
Ghilzai the opportunity he desired. He invited Gurgin 
Khan to an entertainment in a garden some distance from 
Kandahar. There the guest and his attendants were set 
upon and murdered, and the Afghans came at dusk in 
their stead to the fort, Mir Vais wearing the clothes 
and riding the horse of his victim. Admitted without 
suspicion, they surprised the garrison, and, supported by 
a preconcerted attack of their fellow-countrymen, they 
cut off the Persians almost to a man. A body of Georgian 
cavalry, six hundred strong, which happened to be absent 
from Kandahar, was attacked on its return three days 
later. Performing prodigies of valour, this band of heroes 
made good its retreat into Khorasan and confirmed the 
news of the disaster to the Persian arms, which had already 
thrown the country into a state of panic.^ 

The Consolidation of Power by Mir Vais, — After his 
success Mir Vais showed energy and capacity in con- 
solidating his power. He rallied various tribes to his aid 
by proclaiming independence, and even more by publish- 
ing the documents obtained at Mecca. The contemptible 
Court at Isfahan, instead of wiping out the disaster by 
force of arms, attempted to treat, but Mir Vais detained 
the envoy. " Be assured,'' he told him, " that the hour 
of vengeance is at hand ; and that the brave Afghans are 
the chosen instruments of God for the punishment of the 
heretical Persians." 

The councillors of Shah Husayn realized at last 
that there was no alternative to war. But at the outset no 
serious efforts were made, and the Governor of Khorasan, 
who was directed to subdue the rebels, was defeated again 
and again. These successes increased the prestige of Mir 
Vais and gave him time to strengthen his position. 

His Two Victories over Persian Armies. — Goaded finally 
into more vigorous action, the Persian Government 

^ A somewhat different account of this disaster is given in vol. iv. of Histoire de la 
Georgie by M. Brosset. 


assembled a powerful army, the command of which was 
given to Khusru Khan, Governor of Georgia and nephew 
of Gurgin Khan. Advancing on Kandahar, he defeated 
Mir Vais and besieged his capital. The Afghans were 
ready to submit if a general pardon were proclaimed, but 
the Georgian general, thirsting for revenge, insisted upon 
an unconditional surrender. In desperation the garrison 
prepared to resist to the death, the Persian assaults were 
beaten off, and the besieging army, harassed by the foe, 
began to suffer from scarcity. Mir Vais was able to take 
the field again, and this time he was successful. The 
Shah's army was defeated, the Georgian general killed, 
and of the twenty-five thousand Persians less than one 
thousand escaped. The date of this was a.h. 1123 
(171 1). A second army was raised under the command 
of Mohamed Rustam, but this force was also defeated, 
and Mir Vais by these two victories became the undis- 
puted ruler of the province of Kandahar. Apparently 
no attempt was made by Persia to collect a third army, 
and until his death, which occurred in a.h. 1127 (1715), 
the Ghilzai chief was busily engaged in organizing 
schemes of further aggrandisement. 

Mir Ahdulla^ a.h. ii 28-1 130 (17 15-17 17). — Mir 
Vais left two sons, the eldest of whom, Mahmud, was 
eighteen years old, but his uncle Abdulla seized the reins 
of power. He very soon showed his intention of making 
peace with Persia and sent envoys to Isfahan charged with 
the task. His stipulations were {a) that all tribute should 
be remitted, {h) that no foreign troops should be sent to 
Kandahar, and (c) that the post of Governor should be 
made hereditary in his family. These negotiations out- 
raged many of the Afghans, whose pride in their hard-won 
independence was intense, and, knowing that he had the 
popular feeling behind him, Mahmud with forty sup- 
porters assassinated Mir Abdulla. It is recorded that 
after the deed the Nakkara Khana, or music, was played, 
that the Chiefs then assembled in council, and after 
examining the instructions given by Mir Abdulla to the 
Afghan envoys, pronounced his fate to be just, and 
proclaimed Mahmud ruler of Kandahar. 



The Rise of the Abdalis of Herat, — As may be supposed, 
the success of Mir Vais had fired other provinces 
inhabited by Sunni populations to revolt, and among 
them was neighbouring Herat, which under AsaduUa, the 
Abdali ^ chief, declared its independence and joined with 
the Uzbegs to plunder Khorasan. To meet this invasion, 
in A.H. 1132 (171 9) a Persian army, thirty thousand 
strong, was raised and placed under the orders of Safi 
Kuli Khan, who marched on Herat. On the way he met 
and defeated twelve thousand Uzbegs, and this victory 
was accepted as a presage of a second and more important 

Asadulla Khan, with only fifteen thousand Afghans, 
decided to engage the superior Persian force, and there 
was a body contested fight until by a mistake the Persian 
artillery fired on a body of their own cavalry. > The error 
gave rise to a suspicion of treachery, which, reacting on 
the army, threw it into confusion. The Afghans, seeing 
their chance, made a decisive charge and won the day by 
their valour, the Persians losing one-third of their men, 
their general, their artillery, and their baggage. The 
loss to the Afghans was three thousand, or one-fifth of 
the army engaged ; but the Abdalis, like their neighbours 
and rivals the Ghilzais, had won their freedom, and hence- 
forth constituted a second independent state on the eastern 
frontier of Persia. Their relations with the Ghilzais were 
unfriendly, and even after the capture of Isfahan they 
were successful in taking Farrah from them. 

^ This tribe is identical with the Durrani. The popular belief is that Ahmad Shah 
changed the name in consequence of a dream and assumed the title of Shah Dur-i-Durran, 
or *' Pearl of Pearls." 

Shah Husayn. 



'Tis easy to infer that as Shah Husayn was endow'd with some of the 
Qualities and Virtues which adorn a private Man, he had none of those which 
are necessary for a Monarch. He was good natur'd and human ; but his good 
Nature was of that Stamp which bears with every Thing, and punishes nothing, 
and in which the wicked, being assur'd by it of Impunity, find their Account 
more than honest Men, whom it deprives of all Hopes of Justice. He hurt no 
particular Person, and by that Means injur'd all Mankind. — Father Krusinski 
on Shah Husayn. 

The First Expedition of Mahmud^ a.h. 1133 (1720).- 

The first Afghan expedition ^ into Persia was a raid rather 
than an invasion. Mahmud crossed the Lut to the south 
of Sistan, and after ravaging Narmashir advanced on 
Kerman, which he took by the aid of the Zoroastrian 
section of its inhabitants. Lutf Ali Khan, whose failure 
against Maskat was mentioned at the end of Chapter LXVI., 
was burning to redeem his reputation. He did not wait 
for his main army, but with a body of picked troops 
defeated the Afghans and captured their camp ; his 
cavalry pursued the routed invaders back to Kandahar. 
Thus Mahmud's first attempt ended in disaster. Kerman 
was now strongly garrisoned and fortified to prevent its 
falling again into the hands of Afghans, and Lutf Ali Khan 

' The authorities include the Historical Account of Br'itiih Trade O'ver the Caspian^ by 
Jonas Hanway j the History of the late Revolutions in Persia^ by Father Krusinski ; and 
the Jahangusha-i-Nadiri, by Miraa Mehdi Khan, Nadir's Chief Secretary. 




maintained a powerful army ; so that a repetition of the 
raid seemed unlikely. 

The Disgrace of the Vizier and of Lutf Ali Khan, — The 
Persian Empire meanwhile, unconscious of its approaching 
doom, continued to be distracted by Court plots and 
intrigues. Fatteh Ali Khan, the Vizier, was accused of 
treason and of instigating a body of Kurds to kill the 
Shah in the night. Husayn, awakened from his sleep, 
yielded to panic and gave orders for the Minister to be 
executed. The wretched man's eyes were put out and 
he was about to be tortured to make him reveal the 
whereabouts of his treasure, when the Shah realized that 
he had been duped. A council of nobles was summoned, 
before whom the Vizier cleared himself fully ; but the 
mischief was done. Lutf Ali Khan, his brother-in-law, 
who had collected and trained an army for the invasion 
of the Kandahar province, was dismissed and, as was usual 
in such cases, the army dispersed. Consequently, at this 
grave crisis in her history Persia found herself almost 
defenceless through the folly of her feeble ruler. 

Signs and Portents. — The year a.h. 1134 (1721) was 
filled with disaster and foreboding. In Khorasan the 
Abdali Afghans raided unchecked, and in the west the 
Lesgians sacked Shamakha, the capital of Shirwan. More 
disturbing even than raids and the sacking of cities were 
the signs and portents that appeared. An earthquake 
destroyed ill-starred Tabriz, while the usually clear atmos- 
phere became dense, and the sun showed like a blood-red 
orb. The superstitious Persians were panic-stricken, 
and the astrologers added to their fears by prophesying 
the similar destruction of Isfahan. Calamity, terror, the 
cowardice of the Shah, the effeminacy of the Court, and 
the dearth of generals and soldiers together lowered the 
national moral to such a degree that probably no country 
has ever been essentially weaker than Iran at this critical 

The Second Expedition of Mahmud^ a.h. 1135 (1722). 
— The fear of invasion by Lutf Ali Khan had cowed the 
Ghilzais ; but on hearing of his downfall they regained 
their courage and decided to invade Persia a second time. 


Mahmud left Kandahar in mid-winter, and again traversed 
the desert to Narmashir and Kerman. On this occasion 
he took the city, but the fort resisted so stoutly that he 
was glad to accept the trifling sum of ;^5000 and raise 
the siege. He then marched on Isfahan by way of 
Yezd, which he attacked without success. From Yezd 
he took the direct route to the capital, and on the way 
was met by envoys who offered ^^30,000 if he and his 
band would return to Afghanistan. Encouraged by this 
sign of weakness at the heart of the Empire, the invaders 
pressed on as far as Gulnabad, a village on a bare feature- 
less plain, eleven miles from Isfahan, and there halted. 

The Afghan and Persian Armies. — The Afghan army 
now consisted of perhaps twenty thousand ^ men. It had 
suffered losses by death and desertion at Kerman and 
also at Yezd, and the only recruits who had joined it 
were a few Zoroastrians. Its artillery was composed of 
one hundred zanburak^ or swivels — literally " little wasps " 
— mounted on camels and throwing a ball of a little 
under two pounds in weight. 

The Persian force assembled at Isfahan was more than 
double the number and was provided with proper artillery. 
Its base was a populous city and it was fighting in defence 
of its own hearths. More than this, the fate of Persia 
depended on its valour. At a council of war the opinion 
at first prevailed that it would be better simply to hold 
the capital and allow the Afghans to wear themselves out 
against the walls. But the advocates of defensive action 
were overruled. The Vali of Arabia insisted upon the 
disgrace the Shah-in-Shah would incur if he were afraid 
to meet a band of plundering Afghans. In Persia self- 
esteem is perhaps stronger than elsewhere, and the Vali's 
glowing words were acclaimed and carried the day. To 
avoid arousing jealousy, the command of the troops was 
divided, and the Persian army, fifty thousand strong, 
strengthened by twenty- four guns, marched out to the 
plain of Gulnabad.2 

1 Krusinski doubles this number, but I follow Malcolm. 

2 Many years ago, when camped on the site of this battle, I read how the Persians, 
sumptuously armed and splendidly horsed with saddles and stirrups mounted with gold, 
laughed to scorn the ragged sun-scorched Afghans. My thoughts went back, to the 



The right wing was commanded by another ill-fated 
Rustam Khan, the General of the Royal Guards, and the 
left wing by the Vizier. Attached to the former was a 
body of Arab horse under its Vali, and to the latter a 
force under the Vali of Laristan. Both these wings, 
together about thirty thousand strong, were mounted. 
The centre, consisting of twenty thousand infantry, with 
the artillery, completed what appeared to be a formidable 

The Afghans were drawn up in four divisions, 
Mahmud in the centre being supported by the best 
fighting men. On his right was Aman Ulla Khan, while 
the left was covered by the Zoroastrians. In the rear 
were the hundred swivels. 

The Battle of Gulnabad, a.h. 1135 (1722). — The fate- 
ful battle of Gulnabad opened with a charge by the 
Persian right, which met with some success. Simultane- 
ously the Vali of Arabia turned the enemy's left flank 
and fell on the Afghan camp, which was plundered, the 
Arabs taking no part in the fighting but occupying them- 
selves with looting. The Persian left wing also charged, 
but the Afghans by a clever manoeuvre unmasked their 
camel guns, which caused great havoc, and at the same 
moment charged the reeling column. It broke and fled 
and the pursuing Afghans wheeled on the rear of the 
artillery, which had no escort. The gunners were cut 
to pieces and the guns turned on the Persian infantry, 
which also broke and fled. No pursuit was attempted, 
as the Afghans busied themselves with plundering the 
Persian camp, and according to one account feared an 

Thus ignominiously fled, with a loss of only two 
thousand men, a powerful Persian army fighting for 
everything that a nation holds dear, and never again did 
it dare to face the Afghans in the field. The Persian 
nation had ceased to be virile, and the verdict of history 
is that when it fell, it fell deservedly through its own 

battles fought by the last Sasanian monarchs against the Arabs, and I was struck by 
the similarity of the circumstances and conditions. 



The Capture of Farrahabad and the Capitulation of 
Julfa. — The Ghilzai chief was not a great conqueror, 
although he overthrew an empire which ranked high in 
the world. After the battle he retired to his entrench- 
ments and there remained wholly inactive, even allowing 
the Persians to return to the battlefield and take away 
their lost guns. He had apparently decided to retire. 
His spies, however, reported the panic that prevailed in 
the capital, and when he realized the true position he 
regained his courage and advanced on Isfahan. Some 
three miles from the city lay Farrahabad, built as a fort 
by Shah Husayn and strongly held ; but instead of using 
the position to delay the Afghans, the Persians in their 
alarm withdrew the garrison. Julfa, situated on the 
right bank of the Zenda Rud, was next attacked. The 
Armenians offered a stout resistance and applied for 
reinforcements to the Vali of Arabia, who had been 
promoted to the supreme command. Owing to fanaticism 
or treachery he refused all aid ; a breach was effected and 
the Armenians capitulated. They were ordered to pay 
the equivalent of ;^ 140,000 in money and to surrender 
fifty of their most beautiful virgins, and to both conditions 
they consented. 

The Investment of Isfahan. — Mahmud's army encamped 
opposite the bridges over the Zenda Rud and occupied 
the beautiful palaces and gardens erected by the Safavi 
monarchs and their nobles. The direct opening attack 
on Isfahan was an attempt to secure possession of one of 
the stately bridges over the Zenda Rud. At first 
Mahmud failed, but in a second effort he was carrying 
the bridge when Ahmed Aga, a white eunuch, came to 
the rescue and beat back the Afghans. Discouraged by 
this failure, Mahmud was prepared to treat on condition 
that Kandahar, Khorasan, and Kerman should be handed 
over to him in independent sovereignty, and that he 
should be given a princess in marriage, with a settlement 
in money equivalent to ;^ 100,000. These terms were 
rejected, and Mahmud, giving up all idea of further 
assaults for the time being, set about devastating the 
country and laying in supplies for his army. This he 



was apparently permitted to do by the cowardly Persians, 
who could at least have cut up any small force and 
thereby interfered with these operations. Having 
successfully laid waste the thriving villages round Isfahan 
and driven their inhabitants into the capital, Mahmud 
again made an assault on one of the bridges, and this time 
with success, the Georgian garrison being hopelessly 
drunk. The Afghans then regularly invested the city, 
and Aman UUa Khan intercepted two convoys of food, 
sent from Laristan and from the Bakhtiari country. 

The Heroic Inhabitants of Ben Isfahan, — A single 
gleam of light relieves the otherwise unmixed poltroonery 
of the Persian people. Ben Isfahan,^ a village some 
ten miles from the capital, declined to surrender. Its 
inhabitants did more. They sallied out and attacked 
Aman Ulla Khan when he was returning in disorder, 
laden with booty from the capture of the Laristan convoy. 
Mahmud sent reinforcements, but the bold peasantry 
gained a complete victory, killing a number of the enemy 
and capturing a brother, an uncle, and two cousins of 
Mahmud. Upon hearing of the disaster, the Afghan 
leader sent to the Shah to arrange for the release of the 
prisoners. This was agreed to, but the messenger the 
Shah despatched to Ben Isfahan found that the Afghans 
had already been executed. Thereupon Mahmud killed 
all his prisoners, and afterwards withdrew to Farrahabad 
in a panic. Incompetency or treachery or both prevented 
this success from being followed up by an attack on the 
discouraged Afghans, and the loss of a third convoy 
again dashed the hopes of the Isfahanis. Yet another 
blow was the refusal of aid by the Prince of Georgia, 
who, incensed at being prevented from punishing the 
Lesgians, had sworn never again to draw his sword for 

The Unsuccessful Mission of Tahmasp Mirza, — Tahmasp 
Mirzay the third son of the Shah, was now taken out 
of the anderun and proclaimed heir-apparent. With an 
escort of six hundred men he broke out of the capital 

1 Malcolm states that Ben Isfahan was situated three miles from the capital, but 
Bishop Stileman, who very kindly inquired into the matter, has informed me that' it is 
one of a group known as Seh Deh, or " Three Villages," some ten miles distant. 


and proceeded to Kazvin, where he attempted to raise an 
army ; but even the Shah Savan tribe was false to its 
oath, and consequently the mission, in which but little 
energy was displayed, proved a complete failure. 

The Death of the White Eunuch, — Famine now held 
Isfahan in its grip, and a crowd collected outside the 
anderun and insisted on the Shah's leading them to battle. 
Ahmed Aga, the heroic eunuch, diverted the fury of the 
mob on to the enemy, whom he attacked with such dash 
that he seized some positions of importance. Needless 
to say, he was not supported, and when he made the 
matter known to the dastardly Shah, he was accused of 
meddling in affairs that did not concern him. The 
devoted and broken-hearted servant demonstrated to 
Shah Husayn that he had been made the dupe of a 
treacherous general, and then returned home and took 

Malik Mahmud of Sistan. — Among the successful 
adventurers of the period was Malik Mahmud, a scion of 
the Keianian family of Sistan. Driven from his native 
province, he collected a body of men in the district of 
Tun, where the Afshar governor of Meshed attacked him 
with a large force. The Keianian chief sallied out with 
his handful of supporters, killed the Persian general and 
routed his troops ; after this success he became an 
independent ruler of the Tun district. 

While the Afghans were besieging Isfahan, Malik 
Mahmud raised an army of ten thousand men and 
marched to Gulnabad. The hopes of the Persians again 
rose high, but only to be utterly dashed when the 
Keianian chief, bribed by the promise of Khorasan and 
Sistan and some valuable presents, deserted his country 
in her supreme hour of need and marched off to take 
possession of his provinces. 

The Surrender of Isfahan, a.h. 1135 (1722). — The 
Shah attempted to buy off the invader by accepting the 
terms originally proposed by the Afghans, but Mahmud 
pointed out that the circumstances had entirely changed 
to his advantage. While these negotiations were proceed- 
ing Malik Mahmud appeared on the scene, and his 


desertion of Persia was the beginning of the end. Isfahan 
was now suffering terribly from famine, human flesh was 
being eaten, and the city was full of the dying and the 
unburied dead. At length the Shah decided to surrender. 
Clad in deep mourning, he proclaimed to his subjects his 
intention to abdicate, and on the following day signed a 
capitulation, by the terms of which he resigned the crown 
to the victor. 

Proceeding to Farrahabad, he was kept waiting by 
the ungenerous Afghan, to whom, on being at length 
received, he said, " Son, since the great Sovereign of the 
Universe does not will that I should reign any longer, 
and the moment has come which He has appointed for 
thy ascending the throne of Persia, I resign the empire to 
tliee. May thy reign be prosperous ! '* He then placed 
the royal plume in the turban of the victor, with the 
words, " Reign in peace ! '' Mahmud, who had remained 
silent, at length deigned to reply, as follows : " Such is 
the instability of human grandeur. God disposes of 
empires as He pleases : He takes them from one to give 
to another ; but I promise to consider you as my father, 
and to undertake nothing without your advice." On 
the following day the Afghan victor entered Isfahan in 
triumph and received the homage of the fallen Husayn 
and his nobles. 

The Downfall of the Dynasty, — Thus ignominiously 
fell the splendid Safavi dynasty. Its founder Ismail was 
a great man, and Shah Abbas a still greater ; but it is 
important to note that in no instance did the dynasty 
embark on a policy of conquest. On its western frontiers 
its utmost ambition was to recover Azerbaijan and other 
Persian provinces from the Turks, and no attempt was 
made to invade Turkey. In the operations against the 
Uzbegs, too, there was apparently never any idea of 
permanently occupying Central Asia, but only of protect- 
ing Khorasan from raids and of restoring the ancient 
boundaries of Iran. Further south, Kandahar was orisrin- 
ally received as a gift, and here alone can Persian policy 
be classed as "forward." To put the matter in another 
way, Constantinople was never threatened by a Safevi 

320 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, lxvui 

force, and Turkish anxiety was never aroused by Persian 
/policy, which at most aspired to regain Baghdad or Erivan 
' and attempted nothing more than raids to the west of 
these strongholds. Beyond the eastern frontiers of Iran, 
Samarcand to the north and Delhi to the south were 
equally safe from any danger of a Persian invasion. The 
Safavis cannot therefore take rank with the Achaemenian 
or Sasanian dynasties, which created world empires ; for 
they played a secondary r61e on the stage of history and 
were content if they maintained the ancient limits of 
Persia. Nevertheless, the prestige of the dynasty is very 
high among Persians owing to its national and religious 
character, and perhaps also to the recognition of its 
brilliance by European writers. 




Their Way of dressing answers to the Coarseness of their Diet. They 
wear a Vest, which hangs down to their Toes, and which they tuck up 
towards the Waste, under which they have a very wide Pair of Drawers of 
plain Linnen, but their Legs are always bare. The better Sort make use of 
Shoes or Slippers when they ride on Horseback, as also of a Sort of Boots of 
very hard Leather, which when they have fitted on, they never pull off but 
there let 'em remain till they rot away. — Krusinski, on the Afghans, vol. i. 
p. 147. 

The First Acts of Mahmud. — The reign of Mahmud 
opened auspiciously. He allowed the Persian officials to 
retain their appointments and only added Afghans to 
watch his interests. Furthermore, he selected as Kazi, or 
Chief Magistrate, an Afghan noted for piety and rectitude, 
and he worked hard to repair the damage caused by the 
siege. He treated the Europeans with consideration, 
renewing all their privileges, and punished all those who 
had been disloyal to Shah Husayn. The treacherous 
Vali of Arabia was not put to death, Mahmud having 
apparendy sworn to preserve his life, but he was disgraced 
and his post and estates were bestowed on his younger 
brother. In short, so just and so capable was the rule 
of Mahmud at the outset that it seemed possible that 
unhappy Iran might once again enjoy the blessings of 
peace and order. 

The Surrender of Kum^ Kashan^ and Kazvin to the 
Afghans. — Shortly after the capitulation of Isfahan, Aman 
Ulla Khan was detached with five thousand men to attack 
Tahmasp Mirza and to seize Kazvin. The spiritless and 

VOL. II 321 Y 


disloyal tribesmen had not rallied round the throne ; 
consequently no resistance was offered, and Kum, Kashan, 
and Kazvin all opened their gates. As a set-off to these 
achievements, Mahmud was informed that treasure equiva- 
lent to >{^3005000, which he had despatched to Kandahar 
to be spent in recruiting his army, had been plundered 
by a Sistan chief. Nor was this the Afghan monarch's 
only embarrassment. 

The Will of Peter the Great, — Among the mysteries 
of European history is the celebrated will of Peter the 
Great. It is generally believed to have been pubhshed 
in Europe through the instrumentahty of the notorious 
ChevaHer d'Eon, who obtained it in 1755 while he was 
acting as reader to Catherine the Great. It has been 
pronounced apocryphal, but by Persians and by many 
Russians its genuineness is not doubted. Even if it is 
not the actual political testament of Peter, it is accepted 
as embodying the national aspirations of Russia in the 
first half of the eighteenth century, and as such it deserves 
to be studied.^ Its tenor is uniformly aggressive, Russia 
being urged to aim at almost universal dominion. We 
are here chiefly dealing with the instructions concerning 
Persia, which are as follows : " Excite continual wars, not 
only in Turkey but in Persia.'' And again : " Sweden being 
dismembered, Persia subjugated, etc." These words are 
known to every educated son of Iran through a Persian 
translation and ring like a knell in his ears. Thus the 
will of Peter the Great, although scarcely known in 
western Europe, constitutes, so far as Persia is concerned, 
an instrument of policy the influence of which can hardly 
be overestimated. 

The Capture of Derbent by Peter, a.h. 1135 (1722). 
— At this period Peter the Great had finally triumphed 
over Sweden and was free to turn his arms elsewhere. 
Accordingly he hastened to profit by the weakness of 
Persia. While the Safavi dynasty was in its death-throes, 
he had sent an embassy to Shah Husayn which, on its 
arrival, presented itself to the victorious Afghans, demand- 
ing redress for alleged grievances, among which were the 

^ It is printed in full at the end of this chapter. 


plunder of a Russian carayan by the Khan of Khiva and 
the losses sustained by Russian subjects at Shamakha. 
Mahmud, whose knowledge of foreign policy must have 
been slight, informed the Muscovite ambassadors that he 
could control neither the Uzbegs nor the Lesgians. The 
fact was self-evident, but the admission strengthened the 
case for a forward policy, and Peter felt justified in acting 
upon it. He descended the Volga in a flotilla carrying 
thirty- three thousand infantry and effected a junction in 
Daghestan with a force of cavalry which had marched from 
Astrakhan.^ He issued a proclamation in which he de- 
clared that he had no designs of territorial aggrandisement, 
after which he took possession of Derbent, the importance 
of which has already appeared in this history. The Tsar 
was proceeding towards Shamakha and Baku when an 
Ottoman ambassador appeared on the scene, .announced 
the capture of Shamakha by a Turkish force, and declared 
that any further advance by Russia would be deemed a 
casus belli, Peter was unwilling to provoke hostilities with 
Turkey at this juncture and withdrew to Russia, leaving a 
garrison of three thousand men at Derbent. 

His Occupation of Resht and Baku, a.d. 1723. — During 
the following winter Resht was besieged by the invading 
Afghans. Its Governor sent an envoy to Astrakhan and 
offered to open the city gates to a Russian army. Peter 
at once took advantage of this piece of good fortune, and 
occupied not only Resht but other centres. The adminis- 
tration of the province, however, was not interfered with, 
but remained in the hands of the local Khans. During 
the summer that followed the occupation of Resht, Baku 
was bombarded and capitulated. 

The Treaty of Shah Tahmasp with Russia^ a.d. 1723. 

Tahmasp, unable to meet the invaders in the field, made 
a bid for the support of Peter. In return for the expul- 
sion of the Afghans, to which Russia pledged herself, 
Tahmasp agreed to cede Shirwan, Daghestan, Gilan, 
Mazanderan, and Astrabad. But no attempt was made 
by Peter to expel the Afghans, nor were any of the pro- 

^ A good account of this expedition is given in the Memoir of P. H. Bruce a 
Scottish soldier of fortune who took part in the campaign. 


viiices occupied except Gilan. Probably neither side in- 
tended to observe the conditions of this treaty loyally. 

The Persian Insurrection at Kazvin, a.h. 1136 (1723). 
— At Kazvin the Afghans were dealing with a population 
which was more virile than that of Isfahan, but, being 
ignorant or careless of this circumstance, they treated its 
citizens with cruelty and oppression. Consequently, in 
a short time a well-planned insurrection broke out, the 
Afghans were attacked simultaneously, and were driven 
from the city with the loss of two thousand men and all 
their baggage. Ashraf, son of Mir Abdulla, returned to 
Kandahar with three hundred men, and the remainder 
retired on Isfahan, suffering severely from the cold. 

This disaster and various defections left only about 
fifteen thousand men at Mahmud's disposal at this crisis. 
Comparatively few recruits had come from Kandahar to 
fill up his depleted regiments, whereas large bands of men 
had gone home laden with plunder. Three large caravans 
in all reached Isfahan during his reign, in the last of 
which was his mother, who " came to the principal Gate 
of the new King's Palace half naked, and what cloaths she 
had all in Tatters, ravenously gnawing a great Radish she 
held in her hand more like a Witch than the Mother of 
a great King." ^ 

The Massacres at Isfahan, a.d. 1723. — Mahmud wished 
to hold Isfahan at all costs, and he determined to massacre 
a large number of its citizens, thinking that he would be 
able to rule by the terror inspired in a reduced and 
leaderless population. In pursuance of this fiendish plan, 
the day after the return of the defeated Afghans the 
Persian Ministers and great nobles, with only two or 
three exceptions, were invited to a feast, where they were 
massacred, and their corpses were afterwards thrown into 
the Great Square. Mahmud's next step was to massacre 
three thousand Persian guards whom he had taken into 
his pay. No sooner was this effected than an order was 
issued to put to death every Persian who had served Shah 
Husayn. This awful edict resulted in an indiscriminate 
massacre which continued for fifteen days without any 

^ Krusinaki. 


attempt at resistance being made, and thus the royal city 
was depopulated and rendered powerless. The English 
and Dutch factories were harshly treated and made to 
pay forced contributions. The Armenians of Julfa were 
compelled to pay a second contribution, and the Indian 
merchants were plundered. 

The Capture of Shiraz^ a.h. 1137 (1724). — Mahmud 
next enlisted some of the wild Kurds who, being Sunnis, 
were ready to serve under his standard. Mainly by their 
aid he reconquered the cities of Khonsar and Kashan, 
which had rebelled after the disaster at Kazvin. Meanwhile 
a detachment was conquering Fars, but Shiraz held out. 
NasruUa, the leader of the Zoroastrian contingent, was 
killed while taking part in an assault, and in his honour 
his slaves and the prisoners were put to death at his 
funeral. His successor, Zabbardast Khan," was more 
fortunate. He beat off a relieving force under a brother 
of the Vali of Arabia, and negotiations for surrender 
followed. While these were in progress he observed that 
the soldiers had quitted their posts ; he thereupon broke 
off the negotiations and captured Shiraz. Although famine 
had caused the city to surrender, a large store containing 
a three months' supply of grain was found, and its owner 
by way of punishment was bound to a stake and left to 
die of hunger in his own granary. Even to-day this 
story is remembered against the Shirazis. 

An Attack on Bandar Abbas. — A detachment was next 
sent to attack Bandar Abbas. The inhabitants fled, but 
the European factories, which had beaten off a large horde 
of Baluchis in the previous year, were too strong to be 
attempted, and the Afghans having gladly accepted some 
supplies retired, suffering heavy losses from the bad 
climate. Encouraged by the capture of Shiraz, Mahmud 
took the field in person and marched on the Kuhgelu 
district to the north of Behbehan ; but the Arab nomads 
harassed his army, which suffered also from the heat near 
the coast, and he was forced to retreat to Isfahan, which 
he re-entered by night. 

Afghan Intrigues, — The prestige of Mahmud was 
seriously weakened by this unsuccessful campaign and 


also by the failure of an attack on Yezd. He had been 
obliged by his nobles to recall Ashraf from Kandahar 
and to declare him his heir. Moreover, Aman UUa 
Khan had deserted his standard, and though he had 
made a pretence of reconciliation it was obviously hollow. 
Mahmud, to ease his mind, retired into a vault for the 
ascetic contemplation known as Tapassia^ and after four- 
teen days of this existence his mind became totally 

The Massacre of the Safavi Princes. — Hitherto the 
blood royal had been spared in the awful massacres, but 
Mahmud, crediting a false rumour of the flight of Safi 
Mirza^ now gave orders for the execution of the entire 
royal family except the wretched Husayn. With his own 
hands he began this extermination, in which thirty-nine 
members of the unfortunate dynasty are stated to have 

The Death of Mahmud^ a.h. 1137 (1725). — This was 
the last recorded act of Mahmud, whose madness in- 
creased after his bloody work had been carried through. 
The Afghan nobles, threatened with an attack by Tahmasp, 
hastily elected Ashraf to the throne, and Mahmud died 
shortly afterwards, or possibly was killed by the orders 
of Ashraf. 

His Appearance and Character. — Krusinski, who un- 
doubtedly saw Mahmud, gives the following graphic 
description of him : " He was middle siz d, and pretty 
squat : his Face broad, his Nose flattish, his Eyes blue 
and squinting a little, his Look fierce. His Physiognomy 
had something rough and disagreeable in it, discovering 
a Cruelty in his Nature. His neck was so monstrously 
short, that his Head seem'd to grow to his Shoulders. 
He had scarce any Beard ; and what he had was carotty. 
His Eyes were generally down-cast, and he look'd always 
as if he was musing. 

" He was extremely severe in military Discipline : more 
fear'd than belov'd by his Soldiers ; they valued him for 

^ Tapassia is a Sanscrit word from tap^ worship. It is adopted by the Moslem 
Dervishes from the Hindus, and signifies that the spirit temporarily leaves the body 
and becomes united with the godhead. There is a chapter in the Shastra on this 



his Intrepidity in braving the greatest Dangers, and cry'd 
him up as a Man capable of the boldest Enterprizes, and 
whose Boldness was generally successful." ^ 

Few conquests have been more extraordinary than 
that of Mahmud. Previous conquerors of Iran, such as 
Chengiz and Tamerlane, had created a powerful force 
before attempting the task ; but Mahmud captured 
Isfahan, and subsequently most of central and southern 
Persia, with twenty thousand Afghans and without much 
backing from Kandahar. The cowardice, effeminacy, and 
corruption of Persia as represented by the Safavi dynasty 
was the true cause of its downfall ; for, as Malcolm says, 
the Persian Empire resembled " a vast fabric tottering to 
its fall." 

Of Mahmud himself, with the exception of the first 
few months of just rule after the capitulation of Isfahan, 
little good can be said. He was treacherous, narrow- 
minded, lacking in generosity and indeed in almost all the 
qualities which stamp a great conqueror ; on the other 
hand, he was brave and energetic. Like Afghans in 
general, he was entirely deficient in administrative 
qualities and his mind was quite uncultivated. Finally, 
the massacres for which he was responsible have consigned 
his memory to wholly justifiable execration. 

The Tuj'kish Invasion of Georgia^ a.d. 1 722- 1 723. — After 
the death of Murad IV., the relations between Persia and 
Turkey were friendly for nearly a century. But when 
the Afghans invaded Iran, the Sunni power determined 
to take advantage of the impotence of the Shia state. An 
excellent opening was found in the province of Shirwan, 
whose Sunni population had been cruelly persecuted by 
the orders of the fanatical Husayn. The Sultan decided 
to appoint a governor to the province, and the officer 
charged with the task of conveying the Imperial orders 
had been despatched when information was received of 
the expedition of Peter the Great. After some negotia- 
tions between Turkey and Russia, conducted in Constanti- 
nople, the Turks decided to declare war against Persia, 
and three futwas^ or proclamations, were issued by the 

* ii. p. 159. 


mufti^ which ordered the true believers to extirpate the 
heretics. Simultaneously with the Russian operations on 
the littoral of the Caspian Sea, the Turkish troops entered 
Georgia, and Tiflis surrendered in a.h. 1135 (1723). 
Ganja was afterwards besieged, but without success, and 
at Baku the Turks were forestalled by the Russians. 

The Russo-Turkish Treaty for the Dismemberment of 
Persia^ a.d. 1724. — Negotiations between Turkey and 
Russia were resumed and culminated in an agreement for 
the partition of the most valuable provinces of Persia. 
In the north, the cession by Tahmasp to Russia of the 
Caspian provinces to the confluence of the Kur with the 
Araxes was confirmed by the two powers. Turkey took 
up the new frontier line from this point and drew it close 
to the west of Ardebil so as to include Tabriz, which, 
with Hamadan and Kermanshah and all the districts 
between them and the Turkish frontier, was to be 
included within the Ottoman empire. It was cynically 
agreed that, if Tahmasp consented to these conditions, he 
should be aided to recover his throne. If, however, he 
proved obdurate, the two powers were to provide for the 
future tranquillity of Persia by raising to the throne which- 
ever candidate was held to be most deserving. 

The Conquest of Western Persia by the Turks ^ a.d. 
1724-1725. — After the conclusion of the treaty by which 
Persia was thus partially dismembered, it remained for 
the Turks to make good the possession of their share, 
Russia having already occupied the western part of her 
portion. The Turkish army first marched on Hamadan, 
which fell after a short siege in a.h. i 136 (1724). Mean- 
while a second Turkish force had advanced on Erivan, 
which was justly regarded as the strongest fortress in the 
country. Operations were pushed on with the utmost 
determination, and in spite of the loss of twenty thousand 
men in four assaults and by disease Erivan was taken in 
A.H. 1 137 (1724) after a three months' siege ; the garrison 
marched out with the honours of war. 

The victorious army was now directed against Tabriz. 
A Persian force ten thousand strong was defeated outside 
the city, which seemed likely to be taken without much 

Eugene Flandin. 


difficulty, as owing to an earthquake its walls had fallen 
down. But the brave garrison contrived to intercept a 
body of troops marching with a convoy from Aleppo, and 
as assaults failed the siege was temporarily raised in 
September 1724. In the summer of the following year a 
Turkish army seventy thousand strong again appeared on 
the scene. The defence was heroic, the Persians losing 
thirty thousand men and the Turks twenty thousand, but 
the besiegers at length gained possession of almost the 
whole city. Ultimately terms were arranged by which 
the Tabrizis marched out with their families and property, 
leaving their deserted abodes to the victors. Had the 
citizens of Isfahan displayed a tithe of the courage shown 
by the Tabrizis — who are of Turkish rather than of 
Persian stock — the invasion of Mahmud would un- 
doubtedly have ended in failure. 

The Turks subsequently rounded off their conquests 
so that the whole of western Persia was in their hands. 

The Accession of Ash raf a.h. 1137 (1725) . — Ashraf 
was of a different calibre from Mahmud, and in many 
ways resembled his uncle, Mir Vais. He enjoyed great 
prestige among his fellow-tribesmen, whose moral was 
restored by his accession to the throne. His first act was 
to kiU the too capable Aman Ulla and other powerful 
chiefs, whose fortunes he confiscated. To conciliate the 
Persians he played the part of a generous monarch, 
anxious to atone for the misdeeds of his predecessor. In 
pursuance of this policy the mother of Mahmud was 
obliged, as an act of atonement, to pass a night in the 
Royal Square close to the corpses of the Safavi princes, 
which were then buried with much pomp in the sacred 
shrine of Kum. To complete the playing of his part, 
Ashraf begged Husayn to resume the crown, and only 
after repeated requests by the fallen Safavi monarch did 
he place the symbol of royalty on his own head. 

During the reign of Mahmud, Ashraf had treacher- 
ously opened negotiations with Tahmasp. He now 
attempted to lure him into his power, and had almost 
succeeded when the Prince was secretly warned and 
saved himself by flight. Ashraf used this as a pretext to 



put to death the few Persian nobles who had escaped the 
previous massacres. He then occupied himself in con- 
solidating his power, and constructed a strong fort in 
Isfahan to serve both as a refuge and rallying-point for 
the Afghans and their families, and also as a treasury. 

The Victory of Ashraf over the Turks, a.h, 1138 (1726). 
— The position of affairs in Persia at this period was 
interesting. Ashraf held Isfahan, Shiraz, and south-east 
Persia generally, but can hardly be said to have ad- 
ministered the country. His army received but few 
recruits from Kandahar, which was governed by Husayn, 
brother of Mahmud ; he was consequently restricted to 
a defensive poHcy. Shah Tahmasp was in Mazanderan 
and was still obliged to remain more or less a spectator of 
events, although Fath Ali Khan, the Kajar Chief, had 
thrown in his lot with him, and a force was being gradually 
recruited. The Russian Government under Catharine 
was determined to maintain its position in Persia, but 
there was no thought of fulfilling the terms of the treaty 
with Turkey. The Ottoman Government alone pursued 
a forward policy. 

Ashraf had sent an embassy to remonstrate at the action 
of a Sunni power in co-operating with a Christian state to 
attack a Sunni neighbour with the avowed purpose of 
restoring the heretical Shia dynasty. In spite of the pro- 
Afghan feeling aroused in Constantinople, the ambassador 
of Ashraf, who took a very high tone, was dismissed, war 
was declared, and a Turkish army, after seizing Maragha 
and Kazvin, advanced on Isfahan. Ashraf, \yhose military 
qualities were considerable, attacked and cut to pieces a 
detached body of the Turks two thousand strong, and this 
success produced a considerable moral effect, besides 
causing Ahmad Pasha, the Turkish general, to halt and 
entrench his position. 

In order to excite dissensions among the enemy, the 
cunning Afghan despatched four venerable mullas, who 
asked Ahmad Pasha why he was warring on Moslems 
who were obeying the divine precepts of the law in sub- 
verting the power of the heretical Shias. To this 
awkward question a reply was given that he was acting by 


orders of the Caliph, to whom Ashraf must submit under 
pain of feeling his power. So upset were the Turks by 
this mission that a body of them deserted together with a 
large contingent of Kurds. Ahmad Pasha, who had sixty 
thousand men and seventy guns, decided to force a 
general engagement without further delay. The Afghans, 
with only one-third of this number and forty "little 
wasps," fought superbly and won, killing twelve thousand 
Turks in the battle. With consummate diplomacy the 
victor refused to allow any pursuit, and even released his 
prisoners and restored all the personal property of the 
vanquished Turks. This masterly moderation produced 
a strong feeling in his favour, and a treaty was concluded 
in A.H. 1 140 (1727), in which Ashraf acknowledged the 
Sultan as Caliph, and was himself recognized in return as 
Shah of Persia. The provinces held by Turkey were all 
ceded to the Sultan. In other words, Persia was dis- 
membered. The boundary between the Turkish and 
Russian acquisitions was fixed later by the two powers. 

Shah Tahmasp joined by Nadir Kuli, a.h. 1139(1727). — 
The Afghan monarch was no sooner freed from the fear 
of the Turks than he was confronted with an even more 
serious danger. One source of extreme weakness was his 
failure to secure the city of Kandahar. This lessened, if 
it did not altogether stop, the stream of Afghan recruits ; 
it is indeed curious to notice how little initiative the 
Afghan tribes displayed, for few came to Persia even after 
the capture of Isfahan. At this juncture Tahmasp, who 
held his Court at Farrahabad in Mazanderan, was joined 
by Nadir Kuli, who was destined to achieve fame as the 
last great Asiatic conqueror. He brought with him five 
thousand war-hardened Afshars and Kurds. Fath Ali 
Khan Kajar had already collected three thousand men, 
recruits flocked in, and a national reaction began. 

The Conquest of Khorasan by Nadir Kuli. — Nadir per- 
suaded the young Shah in the first place to march into 
Khorasan, where the sacred city of Meshed and Herat 
were in the hands of Malik Mahmud and of the Abdali 
Afghans respectively. On the march he killed his rival, 
Fath Ali Khan, grandfather of the founder of the present 


dynasty, whose tomb I have visited near Meshed.^ This 
act was evidently approved by the Shah, who immediately 
appointed Nadir his Commander-in-Chief. In this 
campaign success returned to the Safavi arms, both 
Meshed and Herat were reduced, as will be narrated in 
the next chapter, and among the honours heaped on 
Nadir was the title of Tahmasp Kuli Khan, Kuli signifying 
a " slave.'* 

The Defeat of the Afghans at Mehmandost, am, 1141 
(1729). — Meanwhile Ashraf was collecting his troops, fully 
realizing that he must once again stake everything on a 
decisive battle. Owing to home troubles and the necessity 
of garrisoning important centres, his field army was only 
thirty thousand strong. One half of this force was com- 
posed of Afghans, and owing to the recent brilliant victory 
gained over the Turks the moral of his veterans must have 
been high. 

Nadir had wisely persuaded the Shah to draw the 
Afghan force from Isfahan, and the event proved his 
sagacity. Ashraf, realizing that the Persian army was 
daily increasing in numbers, decided to march into 
Khorasan before it became too strong, and Damghan, 
situated near the Parthian capital Hecatompylus, was the 
scene of the first of many victories in which the arms of 
Iran, after a humiliating eclipse, were victorious against 
a foreign foe. The Afghans charged with savage shouts, 
but made no impression on the veterans trained by Nadir, 
whose musketry and artillery fire inflicted heavy losses. 
Ashraf immediately detached two columns to make a 
circuit on the right and left of the enemy, while he him- 
self again charged the front. Nadir was far too ex- 
perienced a general to allow these tactics to succeed. 
Beating oflF the attacks with ease, he ordered a general 
advance, which broke the Afghans, who were discouraged 
by the death of their leader's standard-bearer. Leaving 
their camp to the enemy, they fled panic-stricken and 
with reduced numbers along the road to Teheran, where 
it is said they arrived in two days' time — a distance of 
two hundred miles. This battle is known as the battle 

^ "Historical Notes on Khorasan," Journal R.j^.S., Oct. 1910. 


of Mehmandostj from a river which divided the two 

The Second Defeat of the Afghans at Murchakhar^ a.h. 
1 141 (1729). — The defeated army retired on Isfahan, 
where Ashraf collected all the families and property of 
the Afghans into the fort. Then, taking up an entrenched 
position at Murchakhar, thirty-six miles to the north, he 
prepared to fight a decisive battle for his throne. 

Nadir prevailed on Tahmasp to remain at Damghan, 
and himself marched south from Teheran. Hailed as 
the deliverer of Iran, he was joined by hundreds of men 
anxious to be in at the death of the invaders. He found 
the Afghans in a strong position, but their numbers were 
small and Nadir's victorious tribesmen would suffer no 
denial. The Afghans fought bravely, but, after losing 
four thousand men, broke and fled to Isfahaa. There 
they prepared for flight, and before sunrise a huge caravan 
carrying their families and treasure left Isfahan for Shiraz. 
The helpless Husayn was put to death by Ashraf before 
he departed. 

The Reoccupation of Isfahan. — Nadir did not follow up 
the defeated army into Isfahan, for reasons which remain 
obscure. Not until he heard of the flight of the Afghans 
did he despatch a body of troops to take possession of 
the palace, and he delayed his own entry into the capital 
until three days after his victory. His arrival was the 
signal for the destruction of the mausoleum erected over 
Mahmud, whose corpse was disinterred. The tomb was 
made a repository for filth by the instructions of Nadir, 
who little thought that his own resting-place would one 
day receive like treatment. Tahmasp, who had followed 
the Persian army to Teheran, made his entry into Isfahaa 
shortly after Nadir, and we read that he burst into tears, 
as he visited the defaced palaces of the Safavis. A 
dramatic surprise was in store for the young Shah, who 
was suddenly greeted by his mother. She had disguised 
herself as a slave, and for a period of seven years had 
acted her part without being discovered. 

The Final Rout of the Afghans^ a.h. 1142 (1730). 

The Afghans were allowed ample time to rally at Shiraz^ 


Tahmasp urged Nadir to pursue them, but the astute 
General demanded the power of levying taxes before he 
would consent to quit Isfahan. For a while the Shah 
demurred at ceding this authority, which gave his Com- 
mander-in-Chief almost sovereign powers. But at length 
he yielded, and Nadir once again marched to give battle 
to the Afghans, who made a last stand at Zarghan, some 
twenty miles to the north of Shiraz. The Ghilzais attacked, 
but were again repulsed by the heavy musketry fire ; they 
broke when charged by Nadir, and a few hours later reached 
Shiraz in complete disorder. Ashraf wished to treat for 
a retirement with the honours of war, but Nadir replied 
that all the Afghans would be killed unless they sur- 
rendered their leader. The Ghilzai Khans basely agreed 
to this demand, but Ashraf saved himself for a time by 
suddenly breaking away with two hundred followers. 
This was the signal for the army to disperse in bands, 
which under their respective chiefs followed separate routes, 
mainly towards Kandahar. The Persian pursuit was 
successful, the fleeing Afghans being easily tracked by 
the camels which had broken down and died, and even 
by the corpses of old men and children who, when tired 
out, had been put to death to save them from the ven- 
geance of the Persian horsemen. 

The 'Death of Ashraf^ a.h. 1142 (1730). — Lar and 
Kerman then rose, and Ashraf, realizing that all hope of 
maintaining his position even in these remote provinces 
was ended, attempted to reach his native province by way 
of Sistan. But the Baluchis, who had at one time been 
his allies, were now ready to plunder the defeated and 
demoralized Afghans. Ashraf was found by a young 
Baluch Khan wandering about in the Lut with only two 
attendants, and was at once killed. His head, together 
with a large diamond found upon him, was sent as a 
gift to Shah Tahmasp, who must have rejoiced at the 
retribution that had befallen the slayer of his unfortunate 

Ashraf had played his part on the stage well, and his 
misfortunes were due less to his own mistakes than to 
circumstances over which he had no control. Having 


failed, he was fortunate in his speedy death. Few of 
the invaders escaped. One division attempted to get 
away by sea, but was cut to pieces at Bahrein when 
it landed, and individual survivors were found years 
afterwards eking out a miserable existence at Maskat. 

The Flight of the Afghayis, — Thus in a torrent of blood 
the Afghans were drowned. They had achieved a re- 
markable conquest with slender means, and, had their 
fellow- tribesmen joined them in sufficient numbers, they 
might have held their own for some time against the 
national revival. But their barbarous organi2^tion, while 
good enough for conquest, massacre, and destruction, was 
totally incapable of administering the kingdom they had 
won so easily. The invaders remained, therefore, a 
numerically small band of hated aliens, which, even under 
a fine leader like Ashraf, could not stand against the 
troops of Nadir. 

The Will of Peter the Great 

Preliminary Clause. — In the name of the most holy and indivis- 
ible Trinity, we Peter L, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, 
to all our descendants to the throne and government of the Russian 
nation. The All- Powerful, to whom we owe our existence, 
makes us regard the Russian people which is constantly guided by 
His light, and sustained by His Divine support, as called in the 
future to be the dominant race in Europe. This idea strikes us 
from the fact that European nations haye for the greater part 
arrived at a state of old age allied to decav, or at all events this 
approaches them with rapid strides. From this it results that they 
ought to be easily and assuredly conquered by a young and new 
people, when the latter shall have attained all their force and 

I regard the approaching invasion of the Western and Oriental 
nations by the North as a periodic movement decreed and designed 
by Providence, who in such a manner regenerated the Roman 
people by means of an invasion of barbarians. This emigration of 
men from the direction of the Pole is like the reflux of the Nile, 
which at certain times nourishes with its mud the western land 
of Egypt, I ha\'e found Russia to be this river, and so I leave 
her. My successors will make her a great sea destined to 
fertilize impoverished Europe, and if my descendants know how 
to direct the waters, her waves will break through any opposing 



banks. It is just for this reason that I leave the following 
instructions, and I recommend them to the attention and constant 
observation of my descendants. 

I. To keep Russia in a state for continual vi^ar, to hold the 
soldier ever ready, and never give him rest except for the purpose 
of recovering the finances of the country and the improvement 
of the army. To choose the most favourable moment for attack, 
to follow up peace by war, and war by peace, in the interest, 
aggrandisement, and growing prosperity of Russia. 

II. To entice by every means possible from the cleverest 
people of Europe officers during war and savants during peace, 
in order to improve the Russians at the expense of other nations 
without losing her own advantages. 

III. To take part on every occasion in the affairs and discus- 
sions of Europe, whatever they may be, and especially in those 
concerning Germany, who as our most intimate neighbour 
interests us more directly. 

IV. To divide Poland, and keep up in that kingdom a 
constant disorder and continual jealousy, gain over the other 
Powers at the price of gold, influence the Polish assemblies and 
corrupt them, so as to obtain an interest in the election of kings, 
to name partisans and protect them as an excuse for the entry of 
Muscovite troops there, to remain until the day arrives for a 
permanent occupation. If the neighbouring Powers put forth 
difficulties, tranquillize them for a moment by dividing the 
country until we can retake as much of it as we have given up 
to them. 

V. To take as much as we can of Sweden, and induce her 
to attack us, in order that we may have the pretext for subjugat- 
ing her. For this purpose we must isolate Denmark from Sweden, 
and favour the rivalry between these countries. 

VI. To choose always German princesses for our princes in 
order to promote family alliances, reunite our interests, and so 
bring Germany over to our cause for the augmentation of our 

VII. To give the preference to an alliance with England for 
commerce, she being the Power which has the greatest need of 
us for her marine, while at the same time she can be most useful 
to us for the development of our own. To exchange our wood 
and products for her gold, and establish continual relations be- 
tween us with regard to her merchandize, her sailors, and our 
own, which will be in the interest of this country for navigation 
and commerce. 

VIII. To extend ourselves without ceasing towards the North 
along the Baltic, and also towards the South along the Black Sea. 

IX. To approach as near as possible to Constantinople and 


India. Whoever governs there will be the true sovereign of the 
world. Consequently excite continual wars, not only in Turkey, 
but in Persia. EstabHsh dockyards on the Black Sea, seize 
upon little pieces near this sea as well as on the Baltic, which 
is doubly necessary for the attainment of our project. And in 
the decadence of Persia, penetrate as far as tne Persian Gulf, 
re-establish if it be possible the ancient commerce with the 
Levant, advance as far as India, which is the depot of the world. 
Arrived at this point, we shall have no longer need of England's , 


X. To endeavour to maintain with care the alliance with the 
house of Austria, appear to support her in her policy of future 
domination in Germany, and foster below the surface the jealousy 
of the princes. Endeavour to induce her to demand the assistance 
of Russia by one means or another, and to exercise over the 
country a species of protection which may prepare for future 

XL To interest the house of Austria in driving the Turk out 
of Europe, to neutralize her jealousies at the moment of the 
conquest of Constantinople, either by exciting her to war with 
the great Powers of Europe, or by giving her a portion of the 
conquest, which we will retake from her at a later period, 

XII. To endeavour to reunite around us all the disunited and 
schismatic Greeks who are scattered over Hungary or Turkey or 
the middle of Poland, to be their centre, their support, to establish 
in advance an universal predominance by means of a kind of 
automatic or sacerdotal supremacy as a friend to each enemy. 

XII I. Sweden being dismembered, Persia subjugated, Poland 
crushed, Turkey conquered, our army reunited, the Black Sea and 
Baltic guarded by our ships, we must then propose separately, 
and very secretly, first to the Court of Versailles, then to that 
of Vienna, to share with them the empire of the universe. If 
one of the two accept, which is nearly certain, by flattering her 
ambition and national vanity, to make use of her for crushing 
the other. Finally, to annihilate in her turn the one which 
remains, by commencing a struggle which cannot be perilous, 
Russia possessing already all the Eastern or greater portion of 

XIV. If (which is not impossible) each of these powers should 
refuse the project of Russia, we must know how to excite them to 
quarrel one with the other, and so act that they may enfeeble 
themselves through each other. Then, taking advantage of the 
decisive moment, Russia must advance her troops, now reunited, 
on Germany, at the same time send two considerable fleets, one 
starting from the sea of Azof and the other from Archangel with 
Asiatic troops ; through the assistance of these armed fleets, 

VOL. II z 

338 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap.lxix 

advancing by the Mediterranean and the ocean, France will be 
invaded on one side, Germany on the other. These two countries 
conquered, the rest of Europe will pass easily and without striking 
a blow beneath the yoke. It is thus that we can, and we ought 
to, subjugate Europe.^ 

1 I am indebted to Col. H. Picot for the above translation. 

Nadir Shah. 



We find a man, whose birth and beginning were so obscure as with 
difficulty to be traced out j conducting to an issue, with resolution and steadiness, 
opportunities he had worked out for himself ; planning with d^iberation and 
foresight, the fabrick of his future fortune ; and carrying his designs into 
execution, with an unwearied application, till, like other mighty conquerors 
before him, he became terrible to Asia and the undoubted arbiter of the East. 
— Hanway, on Nadir Shah. 

The Origin and Birthplace of Nadir Ku/i. — Nadir 
Shah, the last great Asiatic conqueror, was born and bred 
in Khorasan, which he ever regarded as his home. I 
have visited the site of his birth and also Kalat-i-Nadiri 
and other districts specially connected with the great 
Afshar, some of whose descendants I also know. Con- 
sequently I am able to give stories and legends of the 
hero, whose name still looms very large in Khorasan, as 
told me by various Persian friends.^ 

Nadir Kuli, or "The Slave of the Wonderful," the 
adjective being one of the many epithets of the Deity, 
was the son of Imam Kuli, a humble member of the 
Kirklu tribe which, owing to its weakness, united with 
the more powerful Afshar tribe. The home of Imam 

^ The authorities for this period include the Historical Account of British Trade over 
the Caspiariy containing a Life of Nadir Shah by J. Hanway j the Life of Nadir Shah and 
a historical novel, The Kiailbash, by J. B. Fraser j a paper in the R.A.S. (Jan. 1908), 
and a historical novel, Nadir Shah, by Sir Mortimer Durand. In Historiens Arminiens^ 
by M. Brosset, there is a valuable contemporary account of Nadir Shah by Abraham of 
Crete, and in vol. v. of Histoire de la Georgie^ by the same author, there is a letter written 
by Heraclius II. to his sister, in which the Indian campaign is described. Of Oriental 
writers the jfahangusha-i'Nadiriy by Mehdi Khan, is most valuable, and so in a lesser 
degree are the Memoirs of Abdulkurreem. Finally, I have been given notes by Said Ali 
Khan Chapashlu of Darragaz, whose ancestor was a favourite general of Nadir Shah's. 



Kuli was a hamlet termed Kupkan, situated on the south 
side of the Allah ho Akbar range, on the road which runs 
from Kuchan to Darragaz. There he earned his living 
by making sheepskin coats, and by grazing a few sheep 
and goats near his village in the summer and in the 
warmer plains to the north in winter. Imam Kuli and 
his wife were moving with the members of their tribe 
from the heights of the Allah ho Akbar range to the 
neighbourhood of low-lying Abivard in the autumn of 
iioo (1688), and when they were encamped close to 
the little town of Mohamedabad,^ the future Shah was 

His Captivity and Escape, — The youth of Nadir Kuli 
was spent in tending flocks and bringing in fuel on an 
ass and a camel which constituted the sole patrimony of 
his family after the death of his father. When he was 
about eighteen years of age, he and his mother were 
carried off by a raiding party of Uzbegs to Khiva, where 
four years later his mother died in slavery. The young 
Nadir Kuli contrived to escape and returned penniless to 
Khorasan, where he climbed the first step up the ladder 
of success by entering the service of Baba Ali Beg, 
Ahmadlu Afshar, who was Governor of Abivard, at that 
period the capital of the district.^ 

Appointment to Abivard, — Malik Mahmud, after 
leaving Isfahan to its fate, as mentioned in Chapter 
LXVIIL, had soon found an opportunity of seizing 
Meshed, which had fallen a prey to anarchy. Once 
secure in his possession of the sacred city, he prepared a 
crown fashioned like that of the Keianis, and established 
himself as an independent ruler with a regular army of 
infantry, artillery, and cavalry. It happened that in the 
absence of Baba Ali Beg, one of his mamurs or officials 
came to Abivard and ill-treated the family of the Governor. 
Nadir Kuli immediately came to the rescue and killed the 
official. His master, upon his return, was in great 
perplexity ; but Nadir with remarkable courage proposed 

1 This is now termed Kala Kuhna^ or "Old Fort," and is perhaps a mile from the 
present town. 

2 Abivard or Bavard is now a ruin, situated in the vicinity of Kahkha on the Central 
Asian Railway. 


that he should himself proceed to Meshed. There he 
pleaded that as a loyal servant he was bound to defend 
his master's honour, and Malik Mahmud not only 
pardoned him, but gave him a robe of honour. Shortly 
after this event Nadir married his master's daughter, who 
subsequendy became the mother of the unfortunate Riza 
Kuli. Upon the death of Baba Ali, for which according 
to some accounts Nadir was responsible, he succeeded to 
the governorship of Abivard. 

Service under Malik Mahmud, — The rise to power 
of a clever, resolute leader of men was speedy in those 
troublous times, and Nadir Kuli was soon employed by 
Malik Mahmud to attack the raiding Uzbegs. He 
distinguished himself by winning a battle, but, having 
exhibited too much freedom in claiming the deputy- 
governorship of Khorasan as his promised reward, he was 
beaten and then dismissed. His experience as a leader 
of mounted troops serving with artillery and with infantry 
armed with muskets must have been of great value as a 
preparation for his future career. 

His Capture of Kalat and Nishapur. — After suffering 
this reverse of fortune. Nadir, like his great prototype 
Yakub bin Lays, became a robber. His ability and 
success soon brought him recruits, and during the period 
of anarchy which followed the capitulation of Isfahan he 
collected a large force of men and began to levy contribu- 
tions in Khorasan. He also obtained possession of Kalat ^ 
and, secure in this impregnable fortress, destined to 
become famous as Kalat-i-Nadiri, he was in a very 
different position from the ordinary leader of a gang 
of robbers, and his influence spread far and wide. 

But Nadir was not content to remain a mere brigand, 
and shortly after possessing himself of Kalat he decided 
to attack Nishapur, held at that time by the troops of 
Malik Mahmud. He first of all surprised and cut to 
pieces a foraging party six hundred strong, and then 
lured the main body of the garrison into an ambush and 
destroyed it. Nishapur opened its gates and was occupied 

1 Said Ali Khan, my local authority, states that the story according to which Kalat 
was held by Nadir's uncle is entirely unfounded, and I have adopted his views on the 
subject, , 


in the name of Shah Tahmasp, whose service Nadir after- 
wards entered. 

His Dreams. — The ambitions of the Afshar chief were 
already fully developed, and he dreamed a dream, in which 
he caught a fish with four horns, indicating the conquest 
of four kingdoms. He also dreamed that Ali girded him 
with a sword, calling upon him to save Persia and promis- 
ing him the throne. 

The Capture of Meshed and the Execution of Malik 
Mahmud, — The capture of Meshed was a great service 
rendered by Nadir to the Safavi dynasty. There was 
much skirmishing, and he was successful in a battle, but 
Meshed was not to be won by these means. Treachery 
aided the fortunate Afshar, who gained an entrance into 
the heart of the city by the surrender of a gate. Malik 
Mahmud fought desperately, but was defeated, and when 
Meshed was taken he gave himself up. At first he was 
permitted to occupy a dervish's cell in the shrine, but as 
he became a centre of intrigues he was put to death by 
Nadir's orders. 

The Reward for the Expulsion of the Afghans. — 
Tahmasp had apparently few illusions as to the character 
of his great general. His expulsion of the Afghans, 
narrated in detail in the last chapter, was however too 
signal a service to be rewarded in the ordinary manner, 
and the Shah perforce bestowed on him Khorasan, Sistan, 
Kerman, and Mazanderan, together with the title of 
Sultan. Nadir was too astute to assume the title, but he 
struck money in his own name and with it paid his army ; 
and in the East this is tantamount to an assumption of 

Nadir Kults First Turkish Campaign. — After the 
extirpation of the Afghan invaders. Nadir Kuli turned 
his attention to the Turks. The position, indeed, was 
serious, as the whole of Azerbaijan and most of Irak was 
in the possession of the Sultan. In fact it was far worse 
than the situation which had faced Shah Abbas, who 
commanded the entire resources of Persia as its lawful 
monarch, whereas Nadir Kuli was hampered by Shah 
Tahmasp. His first campaign was highly successful. 

From a photogi-aph by tlic A uthor. 



Defeating a Turkish army near Hamadan, he gained 
possession of both Irak and Azerbaijan, and he was 
besieging Erivan when news of a rebellion in Khorasan 
diverted him for a while from his main objective. He 
raised the siege at once and marched some fourteen 
hundred miles eastwards to invest Herat. 

Tahmasp's Disastrous Campaign against the Turks^ a.h. 
1 144 (1731). — Shah Tahmasp, fired by Nadir Kuli*s 
successes, determined to take the field in person against 
the Turks. The defeat of the Ottoman army had reacted 
on the situation in Constantinople, where the Janissaries 
had dethroned Ahmad III. and placed Mahmud V. on 
the throne. Nadir Kuli despatched an envoy to the new 
Sultan. However, before the result of this mission was 
known, Tahmasp began a fresh siege of Erivan. But he 
retreated fi-om before that fortress, was defeated by a 
Turkish army at Korijan, near Hamadan, with heavy 
losses, and in a single month lost all that Nadir had won 
back. In the following year he made a treaty with the 
Turks, by the terms of which the Aras became the 
boundary of Persia. He ceded Ganja, Tiflis, Erivan, 
Nakhchivan, Shamakha, and Daghestan, but retained 
Tabriz, Ardelan, Kermanshah, Hamadan, and Luristan. 
The treaty, which contained eight articles, also dealt with 
pilgrimage, commerce, the establishment of consuls at 
Constantinople and Isfahan and other matters. There 
was no provision for the release of Persian prisoners. 

His Dethronement in a.h. 1145 (1732). — The defeat 
of Tahmasp aflForded Nadir Kuli the pretext he had 
hitherto lacked. In the first place, he issued a proclama- 
tion protesting against the treaty in no measured terms. 
To quote from the Jahangusha : " As the articles are 
against the pleasure of the Most High and contrary to 
the interest of this empire, we have not thought it right 
to agree to them. Moreover, the very angels which 
surround the tomb of the great Caliphs, Commanders of 
the Faithful, and above all the victorious Ali son. of Abu 
Talib, on whom be the peace of the Lord ! desire before 
the throne of God the release of Moslem prisoners. . . ." ^ 

^ Vol. xi. p. 236. 


He wrote letters, moreover, to the Governors of the 
various provinces, denouncing the treaty and threatening 
with expulsion from the sect and with death all Shias who 
refused to fight. 

At the same time he took the more formal step of 
despatching an envoy to Constantinople with the laconic 
message, " Restore the provinces of Persia or prepare for 
war," Having by these means excited the inhabitants of 
the country against their Shah, Nadir Kuli marched to 
Isfahan. There he upbraided Tahmasp, and then seized 
him and sent him prisoner to Khorasan ; but, as he 
did not yet feel in a position to usurp the throne, he had 
recourse to the ancient device of an infant puppet in the 
person of a son of Tahmasp, and was himself proclaimed 

The Battle of Karkuk, a.h. 1146 (1733). — Nadir's 
second campaign opened with the siege of Baghdad, whose 
defender, Ahmad Pasha, after being defeated in the open, 
was prepared to offer a desperate resistance. The situation, 
however, was entirely changed by the advance of a power- 
ful Turkish army under Topal^ Osman. Nadir unwisely 
divided his force and, leaving twelve thousand men to 
occupy the trenches before Baghdad, marched north to 
meet the Turks at Karkuk or Kirkuk, near Samarra. 
The batde was one of the fiercest ever fought between 
the two nations. At first the Persians gained an advantage 
in defeating the Turkish cavalry, but the flight of the 
horsemen left the formidable Ottoman infantry unmoved, 
and its advance restored the battle. Nadir had expected 
aid from a body of Arabs, but they attacked one of his 
flanks. Gradually the battle went against the Persians, 
the horse of the Persian leader was twice shot under him, 
and his standard-bearer fled, believing him to be killed. 
This decided the day, and after eight hours' desperate 
fighting, the Persian army was routed. The news quickly 
reached Baghdad, where the isolated Persian division was 
then annihilated. The main army fled in disorder and 
in a state of such demoralization that it was not re-formed 

1 Topal signifies a "cripple." As a young man Osman had been badly wounded and 
he never recovered the full use of his legs. 



until it reached Hamadan, two hundred miles from the 

Nadir's position must have been extremely critical 
after this disaster, but he rose to the occasion, and, instead 
of reproaching his soldiers, encouraged them by making 
good their losses and by every other means that was 
possible. So extraordinary were his personality and re- 
putation that recruits flocked in from every district of 
Persia, and in less than three months after his crushing 
defeat he was ready once again to take the field with a 
powerful and well-equipped army. 

The Persian Victory over Topal Osman, a.h. 1146 
(1733). — The Turkish general after gaining this splendid 
victory became the victim of intrigues in Constantinople, 
as the result of which both pay and reinforcements for 
the army were withheld. Consequently he was in a position 
of marked inferiority at the opening of the new campaign. 
But he was no coward, and he sent his cavalry forward 
to meet the enemy at LeUan,^ near the Tigris. As in the 
previous battle, the Turks were unable to withstand the 
numerically stronger Persian mounted force, but on this 
occasion in their flight they swept away the infantry with 
them. Topal Osman, who was carried in a Htter, was 
killed and the Turkish army was routed. 

After wiping out his defeat by this signal victory 
Nadir marched on Baghdad, but hearing of a revolt in 
Fars he made peace with Ahmad Pasha. He then, by 
a forced march, surprised the rebel Mohamed Khan 
Baluch, who was defeated and brought as a prisoner to 
Shiraz, where he committed suicide. 

The Persian Victory of Baghavand^ a.h. 1148 (1735). 
— The Sultan refused to ratify the treaty made by the 
Governor of Baghdad, and a fresh Turkish army was 
despatched under AbduUa Koprulu. Nadir immediately 
besieged Tiflis, Erivan, and Ganja with the design of 
forcing the Turkish leader to a general engagement. 
In this he was successful, as Abdulla, quitting his 
entrenched camp near Kars, advanced on Erivan at the 
head of 80,000 men, and attacked the Persians, who had 

^ Both these battles were fought near Karkuk. 


retired to a chosen position on the plains of Baghavand. 
The Persian forces, though inferior in numbers, gained 
a complete victory. The Turks after experiencing crush- 
ing losses fled, the Ottoman general being among the 
slain. Tiflis, Ganja, and Erivan were the spoils of victory, 
and the Ottoman Court, taught by bitter experience, 
agreed to the terms of the Peace of Baghdad. 

The Evacuation of the Caspian Provinces by Russia, — 
Upon the death of Peter the Great the forward policy 
was abandoned and the councillors of Anne, realizing the 
strain it had entailed on Russian resources, decided to 
evacuate the Caspian provinces. Mazanderan and Astra- 
bad, which had never been occupied by the Russians, 
together with Gilan were restored to Persia by the Treaty 
of Resht in 1732, and by a second treaty, made in 1735, 
Baku and Derbent were given up.^ Hanway corroborates 
this latter date. 

According to Persian accounts. Nadir sent an ulti- 
matum to the Russian general requiring him to leave the 
country, on pain of being driven out by Nadir's farrashes^ 
or servants. A Muscovite envoy was sent to Meshed 
to treat with Nadir, but the latter refused to give an 
immediate reply. The envoy accompanied the Persian 
camp, and one day was summoned by the great Conqueror, 
who had just gained a fresh victory. He found Nadir 
sitting on the ground eating bread with his hands and 
clothes reeking with blood, and when he inquired the 
reason of his being summoned. Nadir replied that he 
wished the envoy to see how he ate the coarsest fare with 
blood-stained hands : he could tell his master that such 
a man would never surrender Gilan. In the Jahangusha 
it is stated that the Russians agreed to evacuate Resht and 
Lahijan after the expulsion of the Afghans but that they 
delayed the fulfilment of the treaty until the following 
year, when Nadir had taken Herat. The European 
accounts would appear to be the more trustworthy. 

The Accession of ISIadir Kuli to the Throne^ a.h. 1148 
(1736). — Nadir, who was now all-powerful with his army, 
took advantage of the death of the infant Shah to carry 

^ AitchiiOTi's Treaties, p. 5. 

( From a Persian picture. ) 

(B)- kind permission of the Secretary of State for India. 

Lxx Kibh. Ub JNADIK KULl 347 

out his scheme of usurping the crown. The leading 
officials in Persia were invited to celebrate the No Ruz, 
or " New Year's Day/' on the plain of Moghan, a 
celebrated pasture which stretches from the neighbour- 
hood of Ardebil to the mouth of the Kur. Surrounded 
with all the attributes of power, the great Conqueror 
harangued the assembled dignitaries and exhorted them 
to choose a worthy Shah from among the princes of 
the blood. As he anticipated, he was unanimously 
requested to protect Persia and to ascend the vacant 
throne. After refusing daily for a month, he permitted 
himself at last to be persuaded by the prayers of the 
assembly, and so ended the farce.-^ 

The Abolition of the Shia Doctrines, — To his acceptance 
of the throne was attached the stipulation that the Persian 
nation should abandon the Shia heresy introduced by the 
founder of the Safavi dynasty and return to orthodoxy. 
In his rescript on the subject Nadir wrote : " Since the 
Shia schism has prevailed, this land has been constantly 
in disorder. Let us all become Sunnis and this will 
cease. But, as every national religion should have a 
head, let the holy Imam Jafar, who is of the family of 
the Prophet and whom we all reverence, be our head." 
According to Hanway, the Chief Mujtahid arose and 
advised Nadir to confine himself to ruling in temporal 
matters ; but the sudden death of this dignitary warned 
his fellow-doctors of law to refrain from opposition. The 
change was therefore formally approved by the great 
meeting, although inwardly it must have been detested 
by the large majority of the Persians who were present. 
In order to make the new departure less unpalatable. 
Nadir declared his fixed intention to add to the four 
orthodox sects of the Sunnis — to wit, the Hanifites, the 
Shafiites, the Malikites, and the Hanbalites — a fifth sect, 
the Jafarites. By this fundamental change, for which at 
most a formal assent was gained. Nadir doubtless hoped 
to make the people of Persia forget the illustrious Safavi 
dynasty ; perhaps also he dreamed of ruHng over a united 

1 Abraham of Crete, who was among the dignitaries invited to the plain of Moghan 
gives a full account of the proceedings. 

348 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, lxx 

Moslem empire which should include the Ottoman 
dominions. But, although for a while it was realized 
that Nadir Kuli alone was fitted to rule the land, no 
affection was ever felt for his family, and at his death 
those who rallied to protect it were few in number. 

The Coronation of Nadir Shah, — In a magnificent hall 
erected for the purpose the crown of Persia was placed 
on the head of the Great Soldier at an hour selected by 
the leading astrologers as peculiarly auspicious. Nadir 
Shah, as he is termed henceforth, received the homage 
of his subjects seated on a jewel-encrusted throne, and in 
order to commemorate the occasion, coins were stamped 
bearing the following distich : 

By gold in all the earth his kingship shall be famed, 
Phoenix of Persians land, World-conqueror, Sovereign named. ^ 

Thus in pomp and splendour the Afshar shepherd, 
who by his military genius had freed Iran from the 
Afghans, the Turks, and other invaders, realized his 
dazzling ambition, and sat on the throne of Cyrus, of 
Noshirwan, and of Shah Abbas. 

1 The translation of this distich is taken from The Coins of the Shahs of Persia, by 
R. S. Poole. 

Holograph Document signed by Tahmasp Kuli Afshar (Nadir Shah), 
(Through the courtesy of Abdul Majid Belshah.) 

[Purpyort. — Xadir acknowledgres his indebtedness for the book (on which he has ^vritten these 
lines) to his General, Keiumars Khan. He adds that as he is too busj' to read it himself he \nll 
return it to its author for the purpose,] * 



We, whose wishes were for such a day, after appointing" guards ft:>r our 
camp, and invoking the support ot an all-powertul Creator, mounted and 
advanced to the charge. For two complete hours the action raged with 
violence and a hea\T hre of cannon and musketry was maintained. After 
that, by the aid of the Ahnighty, our lion-hunting heroes broke the line of 
the enemy and chased them trom the held ot battle, dispersing them in every 
direction. — From Nadir Shah's own account of the Battle of Karnal. 

T/ie Punithe Expedition against the Bakhtiaris. — Nadir 
Shah had undoubtedly resolved on a career of conquest 
lono; before he ascended the throne. Apart from his 
ambition he must have realized that he owed his position 
to the army and that to maintain it further successes were 
necessary. Moreover, to pay a large standing force was 
bevond the resources ot exhausted Iran. 

The tirst expedition he undertook after his coronation 
was aorainst the Bakhtiaris.^ These tribesmen had a few 

^ Owing to the inriuence of the Sird^ir Assad, who lived at Teheran as a hostage 
and, like Mir Vais, learned the weakness of the central government, the Bakhtiaris 
have played a leading and not unproJitable part in the recent struggles for constitutional 




years previously killed their governor, and Nadir had 
invaded their country, which is described in the 
Jahangusha as follows : " If the pen of description wished 
to give an idea of the route, so steep and so difficult, it 
would be lost in the forest of astonishment and con- 
founded in the desert of feebleness." On that occasion 
the savage Bakhtiaris, unable to resist the overwhelming 
forces employed, had submitted, and by way of punish- 
ment three thousand families had been transported to 
Khorasan. On the present occasion Nadir attacked 
another rebellious section of the tribe and led his troops 
into every corner and nook of the mountains. Probably 
realizing that the Bakhtiaris were driven to rob through 
poverty, as is the case to-day with the tribes on the north- 
west frontier of India, Nadir, after killing their chief and 
other prisoners, gave them better lands in a less in- 
accessible district. He also enrolled a body of their 
warriors in his army, a statesmanlike policy which proved 
conspicuously successful. 

The Afghan Campaign^ a.h. 1150-1151 (1737-1738). 
— Kandahar was governed by Husayn, brother of 
Mahmud the Captor of Isfahan. Being quite unable to 
meet Nadir's army of eighty thousand men in the field, he 
shut himself up in the city, which was strongly fortified, 
fully provisioned, and held by a large garrison. Nadir 
Shah, after reconnoitring the position, came to the con- 
clusion that it was too strong to besiege without heavy 
guns, and decided on a blockade. This operation he 
carried out with great thoroughness. Round the city a 
line of towers was constructed, twenty-eight miles in 
circumference, and in these infantry armed with muskets 
were stationed, so that Kandahar was ejfFectually cut off 
from the surrounding country. But the city held out for 
a year, and Nadir then resolved to take more active steps. 
Kandahar stands on the face of a hill, and was defended 
by a wall and by a number of towers which constituted 
outworks. The besiegers made themselves masters of 
some of these towers, to which with immense difficulty they 
dragged up guns, the Bakhtiaris earning special distinction 
by capturing a large tower which was the key of the 



- .^P),'/,^,.,//, ry Co/. H. A. Sawyer. 


position. Kandahar now lay at the mercy of Nadir, who 
treated it with statesmanlike moderation. He even 
enlisted a body of Afghans, who became some of his best 
and most faithfU soldiers. Husayn fled, but afterwards 
surrendered and was interned in Mazanderan. Of the 
Ghilzais a large number were removed to the neighbour- 
hood of Nishapur, whence Abdali nomads were brought 
to take their place in the Kandahar district. 

The siege of Kandahar reflects no glory on Nadir 
Shah, who blockaded it for a year without attempting to 
take it by other means. The event proved it to be by 
no means impregnable, and it would have speedily 
succumbed to determined assaults. 

The Expedition of Riza Kuli Mirza against Balkh, — 
During the blockade of Kandahar, Nadir's eldest son, 
Riza Kuli ^lirza^ was despatched from Khqrasan with 
twelve thousand picked men to attack Balkh, whose chief 
had promised aid to Husayn. After a fierce assault, 
which lasted without intermission for three days and 
nights, the " Mother of Cities " surrendered. The 
Prince then crossed the Oxus and defeated an Uzbeg 
army forty thousand strong. Nadir thereupon recalled 
him, being unwilling to entangle himself in another 
campaign at this juncture, and wrote to the King of 
Bokhara that he had ordered his son not to disturb 
countries " which were the inheritance of the descendants 
of Chengiz Khan and of the race of the Turkoman.'* 

The State of India in a.h. 1151 (1738). — During the 
tedious months which were spent in front of Kandahar, it 
is certain that Nadir frequently discussed an expedition 
against Delhi, which would be the natural sequel to 
a successful Afghan campaign. I therefore propose to 
devote a few words to the state of India. 

The last great Moghul Emperor was Aurangzeb. At 
his death, in 1707, his empire stretched from Kabul to 
the Bay of Bengal. Indeed all India except the apex of 
the Deccan nominally obeyed him, although in the south 
his autliority was limited to the forts and cities held by 
his garrisons. After his decease, the break up of the 
empire began. The elusive Marathas, who had foiled all 


the efforts of Aurangzeb, steadily increased in power until 
even the Emperor had to pay them blackmail. 

Mohamed Shah, the antagonist of Nadir, had succeeded 
to the throne in a.h. 1131 (1719). He was a worthless 
descendant of the Great Moghuls. Indolent ami 
voluptuous, " never without a mistress in his arms and a 
glass in his hand," this despicable monarch was a sorry 
contrast to the virile Nadir, and his unwarlikc troops 
were wholly unfit to face the Persian veterans. Treachery 
also is believed to have been at work, some of the leading 
nobles of India being in correspondence with Nadir and 
weakening the hands of the officers in command of the 

The Negotiations. — Nadir had apprized the Court of 
Delhi of his Afghan campaign and had requested that no 
fugitives should be allowed to find asylum across the 
frontier. His envoy, Ali Mardan, Shamlu, was informed 
that necessary instructions had been given to the officials 
concerned, and a second envoy received a similar reply. 
Nevertheless, fugitives freely escaped to Ghazni and 
Kabul, and it was evident that proper orders to prevent 
this had not been given. Nadir sent another envoy to 
remonstrate, but he was detained at Delhi. This was the 
state of affairs after the capture of Kandahar, antl the 
Great Afshar, free now to move his army in any direction, 
despatched three fresh envoys with instructions to insist 
on a definite reply. Failing again, he wrote an indignant 
letter to the Emperor, but his messenger was killed by 
Valad Mir Abbas, the Governor of Jalalabad. The 
councillors of the Emperor, it would seem, failed to 
realize the seriousness of the position. They hoped that 
Kandahar would prove impregnable, and when it fell they 
felt certain that the Persian army would return to its own 
country, much as Mohamed Shah of Khwarazm had 
believed that the Mongol hordes would never cross the 

The Invasion of India. — From Kandahar Nadir marched 
north on Kabul, capturing Ghazni on the way. Kabul, the 
key to the Khyber I^ass, which is the main land gate of 
India, offered a stout resistance, but was ultimately taken. 



The booty was rich, and included not only arms and 
jewels, but money, which was of the utmost value as a 
means of paying the troops. After this success the 
movements of the invaders were slow, as they were 
delayed by the tribes inhabiting the neighbourhood of the 
Khyber Pass, but before the disunited weaklings of Delhi 
realized what was happening, Nadir had taken Peshawar 
and crossed the Indus at Attock. 

The Battle of Karnal^ a.h. 1151 (1738). — Mohamed 
Shah was by this time really alarmed, and, having collected 
what troops he could, he marched to the plain of Karnal, 
on the right bank of the Jumna, some sixty miles from 
Delhi. There he formed an entrenched camp and supinely 
awaited the invader, who swiftly marched across the Panjab. 

Nadir recognized the strength of the position, and was 
in some doubt what course to pursue. Moharhed Shah, 
meanwhile, had received a reinforcement of thirty thousand 
men under Saadat Khan, one of the leading princes of 
India. Upon reporting his arrival to the Emperor he 
urged that battle must be given at once, to prevent the 
breaking up of the army from lack of supplies. Then, 
hearing that a detached force of six thousand Kurds was 
attacking and pillaging, Saadat Khan led his forces out 
and drove them off. On both sides reinforcements were 
hurried up and the engagement became general. Nadir 
employed his usual tactics of an ambush with much 
success, and Saadat Khan was defeated and taken prisoner. 
Another leading general was wounded, the elephants were 
frightened by fire-balls, and the vast Indian army was 
routed, though only a portion of the forces on either side 
had come into action. 

Nadir's own description of the battle, in a letter 
written to his son, has most fortunately been preserved, 
and deserves to be quoted at some length.-^ 

This batde lasted two hqurs ; and for two hours and a half 
more were our conquering soldiers engaged in pursuit. When one 
hour of the day remained, the field was entirely cleared of the 
enemy ; and as the entrenchments of their camp were strong, and 

^ Vide also the heading to this chapter. 
VOL. II 2 A 


the fortifications formidable, we would not permit our army i 
assault it. 

An immense treasure, a number of elephants, part of tl 
artillery of the Emperor, and rich spoils of every description wei 
the reward of our victory. Upwards of twenty thousand of th 
enemy were slain on the field of battle, and a much great( 
number were made prisoners. Immediately after the action wj 
over, we surrounded the Emperor's army, and took measures t 
prevent all communication with the adjacent country ; preparin 
at the same time our cannon and mortars to level with the groun 
the fortifications which had been erected. 

As the utmost confusion reigned in the imperial camp, and a 
discipline was abandoned, the Emperor, compelled by irresistib] 
necessity, after the lapse of one day, sent Nizam-ul-Mulk, o 
Thursday, the seventeenth Zilkadeh (19th February), to our roy; 
camp ; and the day following, Mohamed Shah himself, attende 
by his nobles, came to our heavenlike presence, in an aiflicte 

When the Emperor was approaching, as we are ourselves of 
Turkoman family, and Mohamed Shah is a Turkoman, and th 
lineal descendant of the noble House of Gurkan, we sent our dea 
son Nasrulla Khan beyond the bounds of our camp to meet him 
The Emperor entered our tents and we delivered over to him thi 
signet of our Empire. He remained that day a guest in our roya 
tent. Considering our affinity as Turkoman, and also reflectinj 
on the honours that befitted the majesty of a king of kings, w 
bestowed such upon the Emperor, and ordered his royal pavihons 
his family, and his nobles to be preserved : and we have establishe 
him in a manner equal to his great dignity. 

Persians love to recount how Nadir, in boasting c 
his hardihood, swore to Mohamed Shah that during th 
whole campaign he had never changed his clothes. T 
prove the accuracy of his statement, he tore open his tuni 
to show his under garments, which were worn to pieces. 

The Surrender of Delhi and its Spoils. — Nadir marched i: 
triumph into Delhi, where he was entertained in the mos 
sumptuous fashion by Mohamed Shah, who handed ove 
to him the amassed wealth of his ancestors. Among th 
trophies was the celebrated Peacock Throne, described b 
Tavernier as follows : ^ 

The largest throne, which is set up in the hall of the fin 

1 Cuizon (vol. i.pp. 317-22) proves that the Peacock Throne at Teheran was ma^ 
during the reign of Fath Ali Shah. 






court, is in form like one of our field beds, six feet long and four 
broad. The cushion at the base is round like a bolster : the 
cushions on the sides are flat. The under part of the canopy is 
all embroidered with pearls and diamonds, with a fringe of pearls 
round about. Upon the top of the canopy, which is made like an 
arch with four panes, stands a peacock with his tail spread, consist- 
ing all of saphirs and other proper coloured stones. The body is 
of beaten gold enchas'd with several jewels, and a great ruby upon 
his breast, at which hangs a pearl that weighs fifty carats. On 
each side of the peacock stand two nosegays as high as the bird, 
consisting of several sorts of flowers, all of beaten gold enamelled. 
When the king seats himself on the throne there is a transparent 
jewel with a diamond appendant of eighty or ninety carats, 
encompass'd with rubies and emeralds, so hung that it is always 
in his eye. The twelve pillars also that uphold the canopy are 
set with rows of fair pearl, round, and of an excellent water, that 
weigh from six to ten carats of apiece. This is the famous throne 
which Tamerlane began and Cha Jehan finished, vKhich is really 
reported to have cost 160 million and 500,000 Hvres of our 

The value of the spoils was estimated at ;^8 7,500,000 
by Hanway, and the lowest estimate was ;r3o,ooo,ooo. 
In any case the sum was enormous and, had Nadir used 
it wisely for the support of his army and for public works, 
it would have proved the greatest blessing to impoverished 
Iran. As it was, it converted him into a miser, and 
Persia never benefited during his lifetime by these vast 
treasures, which after his death were mostly dissipated 
and lost."^ 

The Massacre. — An entirely peaceful ending to the 
campaign was disturbed by a rising in Delhi during the 
course of which some Persians were killed. Nadir at- 
tempted to quell the tumult but was obliged in the end 
to unleash his soldiers, who massacred and plundered and 
burned. Mohamed Shah interceded and the massacre 
was stopped, but not until part of the city had been 
destroyed by fire. 

The Marriage of Nasrulla Khan. — To cement the 
alliance between the two monarchs, a daughter of the 
Moghul Emperor was married to Nasrulla, Nadir's 

^ Some years ago I purchased a coral necklace of Indian manufacture from an im- 
poverished descendant of Nadir Shah. There is every reason to believe that it formed 
part of the spoils of Delhi. 


second son. The story runs that an account of the 
bridegroom's pedigree for seven generations was de- 
manded. The grim reply was : " He is son of Nadir 
Shah, the son of the sword, the grandson of the sword ; 
and so on to seventy instead of seven generations.'' 

The Results of the Campaign. — By this campaign of a 
few months Nadir struck a blow which resounded all over 
the world. Until then, though he had indeed gained 
victories, he had merely recovered lost provinces of the 
Persian Empire. In this fortunate expedition he had 
won the fabulous " wealth of Ind," and with it enduring 
fame. He showed the prudence of a statesman in re- 
placing Mohamed Shah on the throne and threatening 
to attack any one who dared to disobey him. He realized 
that to hold Delhi was beyond his powers : at the same 
time he recovered all the provinces on the right bank of 
the Indus which had once formed part of the Persian 
Empire. Thus with power, fame, and wealth, the victor 
recrossed the Indus. On his march back to the Iranian 
plateau he readily paid blackmail to the tribes of the 
Khyber Pass in order to avoid all risk to his treasure, 
which he brought in safety to Kabul. 

The Sind Expedition^ a.h. 1151-1152 (1739). — The 
army remained for some time in the highlands of Afghani- 
stan and the following winter was spent in an expedition 
into Sind, where Nadir wished to make good his possession 
of his newly acquired territories. He met with little or 
no resistance. Khudayar Khan Abbasi, against whom the 
campaign was chiefly directed, fled into the desert, but 
by means of a forced march on Amirkot he was induced 
to surrender. Abdul Karim mentions that when an 
inventory of his property was taken many articles looted 
by the Afghans at Isfahan were found. The conquered 
districts were divided into three provinces, and, after 
establishing his authority in them, the Great Afshar 
marched back to the uplands through Peshin and Kandahar. 
At Herat the army rested for forty days. Nadir Shah 
exhibited to wondering throngs the spoils of Delhi, in- 
cluding the celebrated Peacock Throne and a tent which 
is thus described: "The lining was of violet -coloured 


satin, upon which were representations of all the birds 
and beasts in the creation, with trees and flowers, the 
whole made of pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, 
amethysts, and other precious stones/' ^ The victor 
also organized pageants and entertainments of every 

The Campaign against Bokhara^ a.h. 1153 (1740). — 
The campaign against the Uzbegs of Bokhara and Khiva 
was the corollary to a successful campaign in India. As 
mentioned in Chapter LXVL, these states were ruled by 
separate, but kindred, dynasties. From both countries 
hordes of raiders annually ravaged Khorasan : it was one 
of these bands which had, as already mentioned, carried 
off Nadir when a youth. As, moreover, they were unable 
to resist the Persian army, it is not diflEicult to divine 
the motives which induced the Conqueror of Delhi to 
add to his conquests. 

The campaign was organized from Balkh, where large 
quantities of grain had been collected. These supplies 
were loaded into boats and the army marched down 
both banks of the Oxus to Charjui, where a bridge of 
boats was constructed across the river. Abul Fayz Khan, 
King of Bokhara, realizing that he was unable to resist 
the Persian veterans, submitted and proceeded to the 
camp of Nadir. The victor, after at first treating the de- 
scendant of Chengiz Khan with haughtiness and disdain, 
restored him to the throne on condition that the Oxus 
should, as in the days of old, constitute the boundary of 
Persia. The treaty was cemented by a double marriage, 
he himself espousing a sister, and his nephew a daughter, 
of the Bokharan monarch. Finally, in accordance with 
precedent, eight thousand Uzbegs were enlisted in the 
Persian army. 

The Conquest of Khiva, a.h. 1153 (1740). — After 
successfully adding Bokhara to his list of conquests. Nadir 
Shah carried out his scheme of subduing Khiva. The 
Turkoman nearly succeeded in capturing the bridge of 
boats and destroying the convoy of grain on which the 
existence of the army depended, but by a forced march 

^ Ahdulkarreem^ ?• 27. 


they were forestalled. They fought desperately, and at 
one time it looked as if the Persian army, which was 
suffering from thirst, would be defeated, but Nadir 
rallied his troops and won the day. After this battle the 
army moved with precaution in four divisions, disposed 
to form advance, rear, and flanking guards, while the 
precious grain boats were protected by the artillery, 
escorted by a force of cavalry. The celebrated fortress 
of Hezar Asp was first besieged, but hearing that Ilbars 
Khan, the ruler of Khiva, was in the fort of Jayuk, Nadir 
relinquished the siege and surrounded the Khan, whom he 
forced to surrender. Before this campaign Nadir Shah 
had despatched ambassadors to the Khan of Khiva to 
demand the release of all Persians detained in slavery, 
but his envoys had been put to death except one, who 
was sent back in a mutilated condition. Ilbars Khan now 
had to pay the penalty for this act of savagery, and was 
put to death with twenty of his advisers. The people 
were not given over as a prey to the army, as it was 
realized that they were innocent. 

Among the prisoners who were taken by Nadir on 
this campaign were two English members of Hanway*s 
staff, Messrs. Thompson and Hogg, who were treated with 
much kindness, being given passports and promised redress 
in case of losses. Their travels and adventures, which 
certainly entitle them to a modest niche in the temple of 
fame, are given by Hanway. From a commercial point 
of view the enterprise was a failure, as there was little 
demand for their goods, and no profit was made com- 
mensurate with the great risks which were run. 

A number of Persians and Russians, too, were freed 
from slavery. The former were settled in a village 
named Mauludgah, in the district of Darragaz, which Nadir 
gave orders to found in commemoration of the fact that 
it was his birthplace, as the word implies. From Abdul 
Kurreem we learn that the mosque he erected was sur- 
mounted by " three golden vases one upon another, and 
at the top of all is fixed a scimitar of the same metal, 
implying that the sword issued from hence." When I 
visited the ruins in 19 13 I was informed that the founder 

/•'rem a //iotog>;i/>/i bv Major J . 11'. Watson. 



of the Kajar dynasty had ordered the mosque and other 
buildings to be levelled to the ground.^ 

Nadir Shah at the Zenith of his Power, — From Khiva 
Nadir marched to his beloved Kalat, where he ordered 
the erection of a palace and of a treasure-house for the 
spoils of Delhi. He then proceeded to Meshed, where 
he duly celebrated his victories. 

Nadir was now at the zenith of his fame and power. 
In five years he had defeated Ashraf and Husayn, the 
Ghilzai chiefs, and had taken Kandahar. The victory over 
Mohamed Shah and the capture of Delhi were a far more 
splendid feat of arms, and his conquests were completed 
by his successful campaigns against Bokhara and Khiva. 
Nor was this all. The Turks had been twice defeated 
and had restored her lost provinces to the Persian Empire, 
which once again stretched from the Oxus-on the north J 
to the Indus on the south — a realm far exceeding that I 
of the Safavis. Had Nadir possessed any administrative ' 
capacity, he might, by employing the immense material 
resources at his command, have restored to Persia her 
prosperity and happiness. But his character was spoiled 
by success, and the remaining years of his life are a record 
of ever-increasing cruelty and avarice,, which made him 
detested as a bloody tyrant by the very people whom 
he had freed from the intolerable Afghan yoke. 

^ I have been given some sheets which contain the accounts of the district of 
Darragaz for the year a.h. 1159 (1746). Among the items shown are charges on the 
land for the upkeep of the Mauludgah and of the grave of Imam Kuli. These documents 
have been presented by me to the Royal Asiatic Society. 

Nadir Shah. 



Who was it that restored the Persian Empire but the Persians ; and who 
assisted the King to conquer India but the Persians ? He has now a foreign 
force, and governs us with an army of Tartars. — A Persian's complaint to 

The Lesghian Campaign^ 1 741-1742. — In Iran the 
proverb runs, " If any Persian King is a fool, let him 
march against the Lesghians," a saying of which Nadir 
was destined to prove the truth. Inhabiting an un- 
cultivated and almost inaccessible country in the recesses 
of Daghestan, these savage tribesmen raided Shirwan and 
other settled districts, and during the Indian campaign 
they killed Ibrahim Khan, the only brother of the Shah. 

Nadir was bound in honour to avenge his death, and 
in the operations undertaken for this purpose he at first 
gained some advantage, his advance-guard composed of 
Afghans capturing a strong position. This success and 
the fame of Nadir caused certain sections of the tribe 
which inhabited less defensible country to submit, and 
they were transported with their families into Khorasan. 
Nadir then entered the Daghestan range, posting a force 
of eight thousand men to keep open his communications 
while the main body pursued the elusive Lesghians 
deeper and deeper among the densely timbered mountains. 
At length the tribesmen found their opportunity. They 
attacked both the army and the connecting force at a dis- 
advantage, and inflicted heavy loss, even penetrating to 
the royal tent and carrying off some women and jewels. 



Furious at being baffled. Nadir fought on desperately ; 
but supplies failed and he was forced to retreat on 
Derbent, where his shattered army would have starved 
but for supplies shipped from Astrakhan. As Han way 
points out, it was this bitter experience which proved to 
Nadir Shah the value of a fleet. 

The Russian Government, alarmed by these operations, 
despatched a force, which encouraged the Lesghians to 
petition for Russian protection.^ The Shah, realizing 
that he had failed and that this failure would raise up a 
host of enemies whom his supposed invincibility had 
hitherto kept in check, retired in a sullen and angry 

The Blinding of Riza Kuli Mirza, — Nadir had 
marched from the scene of the Meshed festivities to the 
province of Shirwan by Astrabad and Mazanderan, and 
while traversing the forests of this province he was 
assailed by two Afghans. The bullet which one of these 
men fired grazed his right arm, wounded his hand, and 
struck his horse in the head. The assassins escaped in 
the thick brakes. Nadir was led to believe, whether 
rightly or wrongly, that Riza Kuli Mirza was the insti- 
gator of the plot. The young Prince was questioned and 
promised pardon if he confessed, but he asserted his 
innocence, and upon the close of the Lesghian campaign 
he was blinded. The character of the Prince closely 
resembled that of his father ; hearing on one occasion 
a rumour that Nadir had lost his life in India, he had put 
Shah Tahmasp to death and had begun to assume the 
state of a monarch. He was harshly treated by Nadir 
on his return and cherished deep resentment, and it is at 
any rate possible that he was guilty. On the other hand, 
Nadir was exasperated by his failure against the Lesghians 
and would not hesitate to condemn on mere suspicion. 
He afterwards undoubtedly regretted his act, and it is 
stated that he put to death all the spectators of the blind- 
ing, on the pretext that they should have oflFered their 

* Hanway, iv. p. 226, gives a translation of the petition, which contains the following 
passage : " We are determined to hold the golden border of the Empress's imperial 
robes, and in spite of all the evils that may threaten us, we will not be dragged from 
them. . . ." 


lives to save the eyes of a prince who was the glory of 
Persia. Persians still remember the saying attributed to 
the blinded Prince, " It is not my eyes which you have 
put out, but those of Persia." 

Rebellions in Persia^ 1743- 1744. — The repulse of 
Nadir in Daghestan and the insecurity felt owing to his 
increasing cruelty were the chief causes of three rebellions 
which broke out in Shirwan, in Fars, and at Astrabad. 
In Shirwan, a pretender named Sam, who claimed to be a 
son of Shah Husayn, raised the country and with the aid 
of the Lesghians defeated a body of two thousand troops. 
Nadir detached a force of twenty-five thousand men, 
which after much hard fighting drowned the rebellion in 
blood. The Pretender was taken prisoner and deprived 
of one eye, and then sent to Constantinople with the 
following message : " Nadir disdains to take the life of 
so despicable a wretch, although the ' Grand Signior ' has 
espoused his cause.'* ^ 

The trouble at Shiraz arose out of the failure of Taki 
Khan, the Governor of Fars, in certain expeditions in the 
Persian Gulf. Hearing that he was in consequence to be 
sent a prisoner to the camp, he revolted, but an army of 
eighteen thousand men captured Shiraz and crushed the 
rebellion with awful severity. Taki Khan was taken 
and deprived of one eye, and his relations were put to 
death. The revolt of the Kajars of Astrabad will be 
referred to when we come to the adventures of Hanway. 
Mohamed Husayn Khan, their chief, was defeated by a 
force of only fifteen hundred men, and the Astrabad 
province was ruined by the executions and destruction 
of property, of which Hanway gives a most graphic 

The Last Campaign against Turkey^ 1 743-1745. — The 
last campaign which Nadir fought against Turkey was 
due to the Sultan's refusal to recognize the Jafar sect, 
concerning which the following decision had been given 
by the religious leaders : " It is permitted to kill and to 
make prisoners of the people of Iran, and the new sect is 
contrary to the true belief." The Persian monarch had 

^ This is Hanway's account. In the Jahangusha a different message is given. 


completely failed in his attempt to reunite the Persians 
with the Turks, and as he was hated by all good Shias 
his position was by no means enviable. 

However, he was able to inflict one more crushing 
defeat on the Turks, who were encouraged by the internal 
state of Persia to risk another trial of strength. For a 
long time nothing decisive happened, the Turks acting on 
the defensive with success at Mosul, Kars and elsewhere, 
while the Persians lost thousands of men in unsuccessful 

Finally, in a.h. 1158 (1745), a large Turkish army, 
under Yakan Mohamed Pasha, advanced from Kars 
prepared to fight a batde. Nadir, whose skill as a 
tactician had not been impaired, resolved to meet this 
great host on the same ground on which he had defeated 
Abdulla Pasha. The Turkish leader, advancing at the 
head of one hundred thousand cavalry and forty thousand 
infantry, halted close to the Persian army and fortified his 
camp. The next day the two armies met, and after a 
series of combats extending over four days the Persians 
gained a most decisive victory. The Turks were driven 
back to their camp, where they murdered their general, 
and then fled in hopeless disorder. Nadir captured the 
whole of the artillery and military stores, and many 
thousands of the enemy were killed or made prisoners. 
After this brilliant success fresh proposals for peace were 
made by the victors. Nadir agreed to waive his pretensions 
concerning the new sect, the prisoners were released, and 
peace was made on the terms fixed in the treaty with 
Murad IV. 

The Pioneer Journeys ofElton^ 1 739-1 742. — In Chapters 
LXII. and LXIV. an epitome was given of early efforts 
to trade with Persia across Russia in the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries. Peter the Great, realizing that 
his subjects were incapable of organizing commerce with 
Persia, made overtures to Englishmen to undertake the 
work, but with his death the scheme fell through. A 
few years later, in 1738, or just a century after the 
Holstein Mission, an attempt was made by John Elton 
to revive the scheme. This intrepid Englishman had 


served the Russian Government in the Orenburg expedi- 
tion, in which he had explored much unknown country ; 
he had also made enquiries about trade with Khiva and 

In 1739 Elton made a pioneer journey down the Volga, 
intending to proceed to Khiva and Bokhara ; but, on 
learning that the Persians were invading those countries, 
he decided to ship his goods to Resht. There his recep- 
tion was remarkably friendly. On the advice of the 
Persian governor he petitioned Riza Kuli Mirza, who 
was then Viceroy of Persia, for a farman^ which was 
granted and couched in the most favourable terms. 
Elated at his success, Elton returned to England, where 
he painted in glowing language the prospects of the new 
opening and obtained strong support. He pointed out 
that Meshed was now the capital ; that it was too far from 
the Persian Gulf for the operations of the East India 
Company, but was accessible from the Caspian Sea, and 
that it would also form an excellent entrepdt for trade 
with Khiva and Bokhara. Against these advantages had 
to be set the miserably poor state of exhausted Persia and 
the circumstance that this trade opening was not new, 
but was already used by the Armenians trading between 
Holland and Persia, who knew the language and customs 
of Persia and were hostile to the new-comers. More- 
over, it was longer than the route via Aleppo, and was 
open for only half the year. On the other hand, the 
Armenians were oppressed with heavy illegal taxes which 
the Englishmen would escape, and practically no English 
cloth reached Northern Persia from Smyrna. 

The necessary permission was obtained from the 
Russian Government, and two ships were built at Kazan 
and launched in 1742. Elton was in charge, with one 
Woodroofe in command of the ship ; but soon after his 
arrival at Resht he quarrelled with the Russian Consul. In 
the following year, as the result of overtures made by the 
Persian authorities, Elton suddenly entered the service of 
Nadir Shah. 

The Adventures of Jonas Hanway^ 1743- — His acts had 
naturally disturbed the English factors at Petrograd, who 

(From Jonas Hanway's Historical Account of British Trade over tit c Caspian, 1753, vol. i. ) 


realized that they would provoke Russian hostility, and 
Jonas Han way was despatched to assume charge. Passing 
through Astrakhan, he found that the Russians were 
opposed to British activity, which threatened their own 
trade, the ships built at Kazan being greatly superior to 
anything which then sailed on the Caspian. 

Hanway, after discussing the situation with Elton, 
decided to take his cargo to Astrabad and Meshed, and 
with this object sailed to Astrabad Bay. He reached 
Astrabad city without incident, but before he could leave 
it Mohamed Husayn Khan, the Kajar chief, seized the 
place. The Turkoman who had joined in the Kajar 
expedition, not content with receiving the Englishman's 
goods, asked for the merchants as slaves to tend their 
sheep ! The Kajar Khan, however, saved Hanway from 
this fate and he was permitted to leave Astrabad. He 
determined to seek justice from Nadir Shah, and having 
with the utmost difficulty traversed Mazanderan he re- 
turned to Langar Rud, where Elton befriended him, and 
to Resht, where he refitted for the onward journey. He 
reached the royal camp at Hamadan safely, and was readily 
granted an order for the restitution of his goods, or, in 
default, for payment of their value. This necessitated a 
second journey to Astrabad, where Hanway was a witness 
of the awful punishments meted out to the rebels and saw 
two pyramids of piled-up heads. 

The Closing of British Trade across the Caspian^ 1746. — 
The Russian Government was alarmed, and not without 
reason, at Elton's action, and as a first step stopped the 
consignment of goods to him across Russia. In vain the 
Russian Company made handsome offers to the wayward 
Englishman if he. would quit Persia. By way of response 
he procured an order from Nadir in 1745 forbidding his 

In the following year the Russian Government issued 
a decree absolutely prohibiting the British trade across the 
Caspian and assigning Elton's behaviour as the reason. 
This was the death-blow to the venture. In the following 
year, after the murder of Nadir Shah, the factory at Resht 
was plundered of goods to the value of ;^ 8 0,000, for which 


restitution was never made. The factors left Resht, and 
thus ended in failure the second attempt to trade with 
Persia across Russia, although as in the case of the earlier 
venture our annals are enriched by the achievements of 
Englishmen such as Hanway, Elton, and Woodroofe, who 
won fame as explorers and pioneers. 

The Naval Ambitions of Nadir Shah. — No better 
. illustration can be found of the influence of physical con- 
ditions on character than the invincible repugnance to the 
sea which the Persians, who are cut oiFfrom it by mountain 
barriers, have always shown, a repugnance which is as 
strong to-day as when Hafiz gave up his voyage to India. 
Nadir Shah deserves credit for being the first monarch of 
Persia who realized the value of a fleet, and his naval policy 
was strenuously supported by his Admiral of the Coast, 
although that officer, when appointed, had never seen a 
ship. In January 1743, Elton was appointed Chief Naval 
Constructor and given the title of Jamal Beg.^ 

Not content with merely building ships, Elton, under 
the instructions of his royal master, surveyed the east coast 
of the Caspian as far north as Cheleken Island.^ Nadir's 
plan was to keep in check the Turkoman pirates and to 
strengthen the claims of Persia along this coast by the 
establishment of a fortified position. Moreover, he hoped 
by means of a fleet to be able to supply his troops when 
operating against the Lesghians, and, as Hanway puts it, 
" the ambition of sharing the trade and Sovereignty of the 
Caspian might alsD be a concurring inducement.'' 

Elton was a genius. Making his headquarters at 
Langar Rud, the port of Lahijan, in a pestilential climate, 
he set to work to overcome all difficulties. Timber was 
hewn and brought down to the coast ; sail-cloth was woven 
of cotton, and cords were twisted from flax. Anchors, not 
being procurable locally, were fished for. The local 
population, working without pay, was bitterly hostile to 
the new forced labour, but Elton, with only one English 
carpenter, a few Russians, and a few Indians, launched 

1 The Turki form is " Gemal," and it must be remembered that Turk! was 
Nadir's mother-tongue. 

* Captain Woodroofe's interesting account is given in Hanway, i. 130-38. On 
p. 161, Nadir's plans are set forth and reference is made to the energy displayed by Elton. 


a ship mounting twenty three-pounders. The Russian 
Government viewed this naval activity in the interests of 
Nadir Shah with open hostility, but Elton stayed on after 
the assassination of his master until he was shot in a local 
rebellion, in 1751. After his death the whole scheme 

In the Persian Gulf, too, Nadir made a bid for sea- 
power. He collected a fleet of twenty vessels manned by 
Portuguese and Indians, which made the power of Persia 
a reality instead of a shadow in those waters. He also 
built a dockyard and at terrible cost in human sufi^ering 
transported timber right across Persia for the use of his 
shipwrights. Here again, after assassination had removed 
the master-mind, the Persian fleet ceased to exist, and only 
a half-finished ship, referred to by later travellers, remained 
to prove that a dockyard had once existed. • 

The Assassination of Nadir Shah^ a.h. i 160 (1747). — 
The last years of the reign of Nadir Shah are described in 
the partial pages of the Jahangusha as exceeding in 
barbarity all that has been recorded of the most blood- 
thirsty tyrants. Wherever he passed he constructed 
pyramids of heads and drove the miserable remnant of his 
subjects to inhabit caves and desert places. There was an 
almost general rebellion against the tyrant. Ali Kuli 
Khan, his nephew, who had been deputed to reduce Sistan, 
joined the Sistanis and proclaimed himself Shah, thereby 
increasing the anarchy of the kingdom. Among others, 
the Kurds of Kuchan rebelled. Nadir marched on Kuchan, 
and in his camp, two farsakhs away, met his fate at the 
hands of one of his own tribesmen. There is no reason 
to doubt that his assailants acted in self-preservation, having 
heard that they were to be seized and put to death. The 
Shah's tents were pitched on a low mound, — which has 
been pointed out to me, — and late at night Mohamed 
Salah Khan and Mohamed Kuli Khan Afshar entered 
the royal enclosure. After a search they discovered and 
attacked Nadir, who died fighting. Although surprised 
in his sleep, he killed two of the assassins before Salah 
Khan, the captain of the guard, struck him to the ground. 

His Character, — The character of Nadir Shah is not 


difficult to analyse. Endowed with splendid physique, a 
fine appearance, a voice of thunder, dauntless courage and 
resolution, he was a born leader of men, and with his 
battle-axe he hewed his way to fame. He had a marvellous 
memory and abundant virility and he proved himself a 
great tactician. Generous at first, and, as we learn from 
Abraham of Crete, ready to overlook errors, he became 
a miser after securing the spoils of Delhi. Moderate in 
his early campaigns and averse from needless bloodshed, 
he was possessed later on with an unquenchable thirst for 
blood. As Mirza Mehdi states, the repulse by the Lesghi- 
ans and, still more, the blinding of his son drove him into 
the awful excesses by which he is remembered. 

Bred a Sunni, he showed intense hostility to the Shia 
religious leaders and confiscated the huge revenues which 
they enjoyed. He attempted to reunite Islam by the 
abolition of the Shia doctrine, but was wholly unsuccessful. 
Later he dreamed of founding a new religion, and with 
this end in view had translations made of both the Jewish 
Scriptures and the New Testament. 

As an administrator, too, he failed completely. 
Although ready to punish injustice with severity, he did 
not realize that in order to secure his position he must re- 
store content and prosperity to Persia. He remitted three 
years' taxes in celebration of his victory in India, but 
afterwards, with incredible folly, cancelled this decree and 
ordered the collection of every farthing. Hanway describes 
how his couriers were a curse to the country and how 
villages were everywhere fortified to resist their entrance. 
Indeed, the whole of victorious Iran was laid waste as if 
by an enemy and the population disappeared. To the 
millions hoarded at Kalat other sums were added, and all 
jewels were seized on the pretext that they must have 
been stolen at Delhi. Had Nadir been wise enough to 
unlock the doors of his treasure-house and support his 
army on the millions acquired in India, prosperity would 
quickly have returned to Iran and his dynasty might have 

Sir Mortimer Durand has pointed out the curious 
similarity between Nadir, the last great conqueror in Asia, 


and Napoleon, the last great conqueror in Europe, both in 
the extent of their conquests and in their deterioration of 
character as a consequence of unbridled power. Had Nadir 
Shah died after the campaigns in India, Bokhara, and 
Khiva, he would have been the national hero for all time. 
Unfortunately he lived to become justly hated by the nation 
which he had saved from dismemberment. 

VOL. II 2 B 

Karim Khan. 



It is pleasing to recount the actions of a chief, who, though born in 
an inferior rank, obtained power without crime, and who exercised it with a 
moderation that was, in the times in which he lived, as singular as his justice 
and humanity. — Sir John Malcolm on Karim Khan. 

Ahmad Khan, Durrani. — The assassination of Nadir 
Shah was a signal for the break up of his composite army. 
The act of the conspirators was approved of by all its 
leaders except Ahmad Khan, Durrani, who commanded 
the Afghan and Uzbeg contingents. With this force, 
ten thousand strong, the Afghan chief sought to avenge 
his fallen leader, but he was defeated and retreated to 
Kandahar, where he founded a kingdom. The sinews of 
war he obtained by the fortunate capture of a treasure 
convoy containing part of the spoils of Delhi, and among 
the jewels seized on this occasion was the famous diamond 
known as the Kuh-i-Nur, or " Mountain of Light,'* which 
now adorns the crown of the British sovereign. Ahmad 
Khan reduced the whole of Afghanistan and took both 
Herat and Meshed. He also invaded India repeatedly 
and annexed Kashmir, Sind, and part of the Panjab. He 
even held Delhi for a time. His great feat of arms was 
the defeat of the Marathas at Panipat in a.d. 1761. 

Adil Shahy a.h. 1160-1161 (1747-1748). — Ali Kuli, 
nephew of Nadir, succeeded him on the throne under the 
title of Adil Shah, or "The Just." His first act was to 
issue a proclamation in which he accepted responsibility 
for the murder of a tyrant who " delighted in blood and, 



with unheard-of barbarity, made pyramids of heads of his 
own subjects." ^ He despatched a force to Kalat-i-Nadiri 
which massacred all the members of the family of the 
Great Afshar and seized upon his treasures. An excep- 
tion was made in favour of Shah Rukh Mirza, a boy of 
fourteen, who was the son of the unfortunate Riza Kuli 
by Fatima, daughter of Shah Husayn. Adil Shah, after 
a short, inglorious reign, was dethroned and blinded by 
his brother Ibrahim, who in turn was defeated, made 
prisoner by his own troops, and put to death when on 
the way to Meshed. Adil Shah was also put to death. 

Shah Rukh. — Shah Rukh then ascended the throne. 
It might have been thought that his descent and noble 
qualities would have made his rule universally acceptable 
in Persia, but a rival appeared in the person of Mirza 
Sayyid Mohamed, son of a leading doctor of the law of 
Meshed. This mujtahid^ had married a sister of Shah 
Husayn, and his son, by raising the cry that Shah Rukh 
intended to continue his grandfather's policy of subverting 
the Shia doctrine, collected a force which defeated that 
of Shah Rukh. The monarch was taken prisoner and 
blinded ; but Yusuf Ali, his general, in whose absence 
he had been overpowered, appeared on the scene, seized 
the pretender, who had taken the name of Sulayman, and 
after blinding him put him and his two sons to death. 

Shah Rukh was restored to the throne, with Yusuf 
Ali as Regent. Very shortly after this settlement two 
chiefs, Mir Alum Khan and Jafar Khan, commanding 
respectively a body of Arabs and a body of Kurds, de- 
feated Yusuf Ali, and of course blinded him, while the 
ill-starred Shah Rukh was relegated to prison. Needless 
to say the two chiefs speedily quarrelled, Mir Alum was 
the victor, and the vanquished Jafar Khan was added to 
the long list of blind men. 

Ahmad Shah, who had rapidly consolidated his power, 
had advanced from Sistan on Herat in a.d. 1749. Shah 
Rukh had despatched Yusuf Ali to meet him, and it was 
during his absence on this duty that the Shah had been 

1 Hanway, ii. p. 451. 
2 M«;Vfl^/</ signifies literally "one who strives (after knowledge)." 


defeated and captured. Ahmad Shah after occupying 
Herat marched against Meshed. Mir Alum met him, 
but was defeated and killed, and Meshed surrendered. 
With a moderation both rare and sagacious, Ahmad Shah, 
after adding Herat and Sistan to his kingdom, decided to 
constitute Khorasan a separate state under Shah Rukh, 
but acknowledging Afghan suzerainty. The Afghans, 
it is interesting to note, have never forgotten that the 
Pul-i-Abrisham, or " Bridge of Silk,'* some seventy miles 
to the west of Sabzawar on the Meshed-Teheran road, 
was once the western boundary of their empire. 

The Origin of the Kajar Tribe, — The Kajar tribe is of 
Turkish origin. Settled for a long time in Armenia, it 
was brought to Persia by Tamerlane. As already men- 
tioned, it was one of the Kizilbash tribes which supported 
the Safavi dynasty. Shah Abbas divided the Kajars into 
three sections. Of these, one was established at Merv, 
a second in Georgia, and the third — which was sub- 
divided into the Yukhari-bash and Ashagha-bash, or 
"upper" and "lower" branches — on the River Gurgan. 
It is with the Gurgan section alone that we are concerned. 

The head of the " upper branch " was looked upon 
as the chief of the whole tribe until Path Ali Khan 
became the Commander-in-Chief of Shah Tahmasp, and 
when holding this appointment transferred the chieftain- 
ship to the "lower branch." 

Mohamed Husayn Khan^ Kajar. — Upon the assassina- 
tion of Path Ali Khan by Nadir, that general naturally 
favoured the upper branch, and Mohamed Husayn Khan, 
son of Path Ali Khan, fled to the Turkoman. By their 
aid he for a time occupied Astrabad and incidentally 
looted Hanway's goods, as mentioned in the previous 
chapter ; but until the death of Nadir Shah he was unable 
to effect anything of importance. Upon the assassination 
of that tyrant he raised a force with which he opposed 
Ahmad Shah successfully and occupied the Caspian pro- 
vinces. He was thus in a position to fight for the throne. 

Azad the Afghan and Mar dan Ali Khan^ Bakhtiari, — 
Azerbaijan was at this time occupied by Azad, one of 
Nadir's Afghan generals, who after warring with the 

from a photograph hy Lo.. U---^ 




Prince of Georgia had made a treaty of peace, by the 
terms of which the Aras was to serve as the boundary 
of Persia. In Southern Persia another pretender was 
Ali Mardan, a Bakhtiari chief, who obtained possession 
of Isfahan in the name of a puppet Safavi prince termed 
Ismail, and placed him on the throne. 

Karim Khan^ Zand. — A fourth pretender was Karim 
Khan, son of Aymak of the Zand, a section of the Lak 
tribe.-^ Born to no high position, Karim had served Nadir 
as a soldier without special distinction. He often told 
how, being in want, he had stolen a gold-embossed saddle 
from a saddler's shop, but learning that the saddler had 
been sentenced to be hanged on account of its loss, he 
was conscience-stricken and restored it ; and he heard with 
pleasure the prayer of the saddler's wife that the man 
who brought the saddle back might live to havt a hundred 
gold -embossed saddles. At the period to which this 
anecdote relates Karim was evidently a private soldier, 
but when we first hear of him at Isfahan he had, by sheer 
force of character, risen to power, and had joined the 
Bakhtiari chief on equal terms. As invariably happened 
in such combinations, jealousies arose and Ali Mardan 
marked down the Zand for death. The latter, however, 
rode off with his following, and shortly after the rupture 
the Bakhtiari was assassinated. Karim Khan thereupon 
became the sole ruler of Southern Persia, and by his 
kindness, generosity, and justice won all hearts. 

The Triangular Contest for Power. — The position in 
Persia was extremely curious. Khorasan was left in the 
undisturbed possession of Shah Rukh, while Karim Khan, 
Mohamed Husayn Khan, and Azad fought for the throne. 
Each in turn seemed likely to win, but the final victory 
lay with the popular Zand chief. 

The opening battle was fought between the Zand and 
the Kajar on the borders of Mazanderan. After a hot 
contest the Kajar won, but was unable to pursue owing 
to the advance of the Afghan. The latter had invaded 
Gilan, but on hearing of the victory of the Kajar retreated. 

* This ancient Aryan tribe has its pastures in the vicinity of Shiraz. I met 
a section to the south of Kerman, •vide. Ten Thousand Miles, etc., p. 428. 


Meanwhile Karim Khan had reorganized his forces and 
prepared to attack, not Mohamed Husayn Khan as might 
be supposed, but Azad. The Afghan shut himself up in 
Kazvin and from this centre was able to drive off the 
Zand chief. Again Karim Khan retired on Isfahan and 
again he advanced. On this occasion, in a.h. i i 66 (1752), 
he was defeated and was pursued right across Persia, past 
Isfahan, to Shiraz. Even at his capital he was unable to 
find refuge ; but, fleeing towards Bushire, he induced 
Rustam Sultan, chief of Kisht, to come to his rescue. 
On one of the diificult " ladders " of the Bushire road, 
known as the Kotal-i-Kamarij, the Afghans pursued Karim 
Khan, who awaited them in the valley below. No sooner 
were they entangled in the almost perpendicular descent 
than Rustam Sultan attacked them. The Afghans, caught 
in a trap, fought bravely ; but their army was almost an- 
nihilated, some fugitives alone escaping, and Karim Khan, 
reinforced by the Arab chiefs, was soon back at Shiraz. 

The Final Campaign^ a.h. 1171 {17 Si)- — "^^^ defeat 
of Azad was followed by a campaign in Azerbaijan, in the 
course of which the Kajar captured the chief centres of 
the province. Azad disappeared from the list of pre- 
tenders, and after having been for some time a fugitive, 
surrendered to Karim Khan. The extraordinary confidence 
in the high character of his rival which this surrender 
showed was fully justified, for Azad was treated with the 
utmost kindness and generosity. 

In the following year Mohamed Husayn Khan marched 
south against the Zand chief with a strong army fresh from 
victories in Azerbaijan, and the prize seemed within his 
grasp. Karim Khan, unable to meet him in the field, held 
Shiraz, and harassed the foraging parties of the invaders. 
He had carefully provisioned the city, but had laid the 
neighbourhood waste. He then applied himself to 
corrupting the leaders of the Kajar army, and with such 
success that Mohamed Husayn Khan, deserted by con- 
tingent after contingent, was forced to retire without 
fighting a single engagement. The last blow in the 
campaign was struck by Shaykh Ali Khan, under whom 
served the picked troops of the Zand chief. Mohamed 

'•^''iiir.-.l l(v ^MW""-^' 


(From an engraving after an original Persian painting m Sir John Malcolm's 

History of Persia, 1815, \ol. li.) 


Husayn Khan was at a disadvantage owing to a quarrel 
with the chief of the rival branch of the Kajars, which 
reduced his strength. Forced to fight, he held his ground 
as long as there was any hope, and then attempted to 
escape, but was recognized by the chief of the upper 
branch, who pursued and killed him. This ended the 
triangular duel between the three claimants, from which 
Karim Khan by reason of his personal popularity emerged ' 
victorious, although frequently unsuccessful in the field. 

The Reign of Karim Khan^ a.h. 1163-1193 (1750- 
1799). — The total length of Karim Khan's reign was 
twenty-nine years, and for over twenty he was undisputed 
ruler of Persia. He refused the title of Shah — the puppet 
Ismail was kept in captivity at Abadeh — and termed him- 
self Vakil^ or Regent. Shiraz was his capital, and the fine 
buildings, of which it still boasts, were all erected by him. 

Of his justice, his sense of humour, and his kindliness, 
I heard many instances when living at Shiraz, where his 
name is still loved and revered. To give a single instance, 
he was so anxious that his subjects should be happy that 
if in any quarter of the town no music was heard he 
invariably inquired what was wrong, and paid musicians 
to play there. To quote a Persian writer, " The inhabi- 
tants of Shiraz enjoyed the most perfect tranquillity and 
happiness. In the society of moon-faced damsels they 
passed their leisure hours ; the sparkling goblet circulated ; 
and love and pleasure reigned in every breast.'* In close 
touch with the people, aiFecting no state and yet shrewd 
and capable, Karim Khan gave exhausted Iran two decades 
of sorely needed rest, and when he died at a great age the 
homely Zand chief was genuinely and deeply mourned.-^ 

The Occupation of Kharak by the Dutch, — During the 
anarchy that prevailed in Persia the Dutch Government, 
whose representative. Baron Kniphausen, had been ill- 
treated and imprisoned at Basra, seized the island of 
Kharak at the head of the Persian Gulf This act enabled 
Kniphausen to blockade the Shatt-ul-Arab and compel 
the Governor of Basra to make full amends for his mis- 

^ lr\ A Tour to Sheera-z^ by E. S. Waring (1808), an interesting account is given of 
Karim Khan and the later Zand Princes. 


conduct. Thanks to Dutch protection, the barren island 
became a thriving emporium and the population of one 
hundred poverty-stricken fishermen expanded into a pros- 
perous town of twelve thousand inhabitants. The Dutch 
held Kharak for some years until it was taken from them 
by a notorious pirate, Mir Mohanna of Bandar Rig, after 
which its prosperity and its population alike disappeared. 
The Foundation of the English Factory at Bushire^ a.d. 
1763. — The Afghan invasion and the period of confusion 
that followed were responsible for the closing of most of 
the European factories in Persia, and some of them were 
not reopened. The British factory at Bandar Abbas was 
closed in 1761 owing to the extortions of the Governor 
of Lar, and in 1763 Bushire, the port of Shiraz, was 
selected as a new centre for commercial activity. Karim 
Khan was anxious to foster this British trade, and his 
farman^ of which I give a copy,^ was highly favourable in 
its terms. In 1770 Bushire was relinquished in favour 
of Basra, but three years later it was reoccupied, the factory 
at Basra being retained with it. Since that date Bushire 
has been the chief centre of British activity in the Persian 

^ Royal Grant from Karim Khan, King of Persia, conferring various Privileges on 
the English, and granting Permission to them to establish a Factory at Bushire, and to 
Trade in the Persian Gulf. Schyrash, 2nd July, 1763. 

Table of Contents 

Art. %., " The English Company may have as much ground, and in any part of 
Bushire, as they choose to build a factory on, or at any other port in the Gulf. They 
may have as many cannon mounted on it as they choose, but not to be larger than 6 
pounds bore j and they may build factory-houses in any part of the. kingdom they 

(2) No Customs' Dues to be Levied on Goods Imported or Exported at Bushire 
or elsewhere. 

(3) No other European nation to Import Woollen Goods. 

(4) Payment of Debts due to English Merchants and others. 

(5) Right of English to Buy and Sell Goods. 

(6) Prohibition against Clandestine Trade. 

(7) Wrecks. 

(8) Religious Liberty. 

(9) Surrender of Deserters. 

(10) Exemption of Brokers, Servants, and others belonging to Factories from 
Payment of Taxes or Imposts. 

(ii) '* Wherever the English are, they shall have a spot of ground allotted them 
for a Burying Ground 5 and if they want a spot for a Garden, if the King's property, it 
shall, be given them gratis 5 if belonging to any private person, they must pay a 
reasonable price for it." 

(12) "The House that formerly belonged to the English Company at Schyrash I 
now re-deliver to them, with the garden and water thereto belonging." 

(Quoted from Hertdet's Treaties, p. il. 


Gulf. The trade was at first miserably small, only one 
ship being despatched annually from Bombay, and until 
1790 the establishment was maintained at an annual loss ; 
but from that date onward trade increased by leaps and 

The Expedition Against Basra, a.h. i i 89-1 190 (1775- 
1776). — Karim Khan engaged in an expedition against 
Basra, mainly in order to occupy and pay his army ; 
though he put forward the flimsy pretext that pilgrims to 
the sacred sites were taxed. The place was taken by Sadik 
Khan, brother of the Regent, after a blockade of thirteen 
months. He treated the citizens jusdy, and was particu- 
larly friendly to the British Resident. No attempt seems 
to have been made by the Turks to recover Basra, but 
upon the death of Karim Khan a few years later it was 
evacuated by the Persians and fell again into their hands. 

Zaki Khan. — Upon the death of the Vakil in 1779, 
furious rivalries and ambitions were again unchained. 
Not only was the Zand family weakened by family feuds 
and assassinations, but the long struggle for power between 
it and the Kajar dynasty was renewed — a struggle which 
ended in the victory of the Kajars, who have ever since 
remained the ruling family of Iran. Besides his brother 
Sadik Khan, the captor of Basra, Karim Khan had also a 
half-brother on his mother's side named Zaki Khan. This 
man had once rebelled and had been pardoned. He was 
subsequently appointed to command an expedition to 
Damghan, where Husayn Kuli Khan,^ Kajar, had revolted. 
This rising he quelled with barbarous cruelty, fastening 
his prisoners to stakes and then " planting ** them head 
foremost in the ground. He had displayed similar 
ferocity elsewhere, and in consequence his name was both 
feared and execrated all over Persia. 

After the death of Karim Khan, Zaki Khan at once 
usurped the government. A number of the Zand chiefs' 
seized the Shiraz fort and declared for Abul Fatteh Khan, 
son of the Vakil. Zaki Khan, who was supported by his 
nephew Ali Murad, also declared for Abul Fatteh, and on 
the strength of this made terms with the chiefs in the fort ; 

1 Husayn Kuli Khan was the father of Fath Ali Shah. 


but the moment they surrendered he handed them over to 
the executioner. 

Sadik Khan, who evacuated Basra upon hearing of the 
death of his brother, was prepared to fight for the throne ; 
but when Zaki gave out that he would kill the families of 
Sadik's adherents in Shiraz his army deserted him, and he 
fled to the fort of Bam in the Kerman province. 

Zaki Khan, freed from internal troubles, sent Ali 
Murad with a picked force to operate against the Kajar 
Pretender Aga Mohamed, who was destined to found a 
dynasty ; but the young Prince, disgusted with Zaki, per- 
suaded his troops to rebel and seized Isfahan in the name 
of Karim Khan's heir. Zaki Khan immediately collected 
a force and marched on Isfahan. At the picturesque village 
of Yazdikhast he claimed from the inhabitants a sum of 
money which they were charged with having hidden ; and 
upon their denying all knowledge of the matter he 
sentenced eighteen of the leading villagers to be thrown 
down the precipice on which the fort stands. He then 
sent for a Sayyid^ or descendant of the Prophet, whom he 
charged with being concerned in the same matter, and 
although he protested his innocence he in turn was stabbed 
and thrown over the precipice, while his wife and daughter 
were given over to the tender mercies of the soldiers. That 
night Zaki Khan was assassinated by his own officers. 

Abul Fatteh^ Ali Murad^ and Sadik. — Abul Fatteh, a 
weak and unambitious youth, was now placed on the throne, 
but his uncle Sadik, returning from Bam, conspired against 
him and blinded him. Ali Murad, who had appeared 
again on the scene, fought at first in the interests of Abul 
Fatteh, but subsequently avowed himself a claimant for the 
throne. A force under Sadik Khan's son, Ali Naki, de- 
feated and dispersed the army of Ali Murad ; whereupon 
the young Prince, intoxicated with this easy success, wasted 
his time in the palaces of Isfahan while Ali Murad was 
collecting a formidable army. In a second battle, fought 
near Hamadan, Ali Murad gained a complete victory ; he 
then marched on Shiraz, which he blockaded for eight 
months and took in a.h. 1195 (178 1). Upon its capture 
Sadik Khan was put to death, together with all his sons 


except Jafar, who had previously made terms with the 

The Reign of Alt Murad^ a.h. 1196-1199 (1782-1785). 
— Ali Murad was now ruler of Persia and transferred the 
seat of government to Isfahan. From this centre he 
directed operations against the Kajars. At first his son 
Shaykh Ovays was successful, capturing Sari and defeating 
the Kajar chief. But the commander sent in pursuit of 
the beaten foe became entangled in the defiles, and his 
force was cut to pieces. This disaster threw the main 
body into a panic. Sari was abandoned, and Mazanderan 
was evacuated in disorder. 

Ali Murad, after punishing the runaways, raised a 
second army for operations in Mazanderan, which he was 
supporting in person when he heard that Jafar had revolted 
and was marching on Isfahan from Zanjan. Although he 
was ill and the season was mid-winter, Ali Murad insisted 
on returning to Isfahan, but died on the road at Murchi- 
khar, the scene of the second defeat of the Afghans by 
Nadir. Ali Murad was highly thought of by Aga 
Mohamed, who used to say, " Let us wait until that 
respectable, blind man (Ali Murad had lost one of his eyes) 
is out of the way, and then, but not before, we may succeed 
if we advance into Irak." 

Jafar^A.u. 1 199-1203 (1785-1789). — Jafar now came 
forward on the pretence of restoring order and invited 
Shaykh Ovays to Isfahan to ascend the throne. With ex- 
traordinary folly the young Prince trusted the man whose 
father had been murdered by his own father, and entered 
Isfahan ahead of his army. There he was seized and 

The protagonists in the struggle for the throne of 
Persia were now Aga Mohamed and Jafar. The former 
marched south as far as Kashan and after defeating the 
army sent against him advanced on Isfahan. On his 
approach Jafar fled to Shiraz. Aga Mohamed now 
abandoned his true objective for minor operations in the 
Bakhtiari country, from which in the end he was driven 
back in disorder to Teheran. Jafar thereupon marched 
north again and retook Isfahan. He then engaged in a 


campaign against his cousin Ismail Khan, who had revolted 
while filling the post of Governor of Hamadan, but was 
defeated in a.h. 1201 (1786) and forced to retire. He 
also failed in an attack on Yezd, whose Governor received 
aid from Tabas, a semi-independent district of Khorasan. 
Aga Mohamed, having meanwhile united all the sections 
of his tribe, again drove Jafar out of Isfahan and followed 
him to Shiraz, but being unable to capture that city, re- 
turned to Isfahan. Jafar detached his son Lutf Ali to 
subdue the province of Lar ; this he accomplished and then 
proceeded to Kerman. Isfahan was taken once again, and 
once again abandoned, and Jafar retired finally to Shiraz. 
There, as the result of a conspiracy, poisoned food was 
given to him, and, the prisoners having been released, 
his death was hastened by a more summary form of 

The Accession of Lutf Ali Khan. — Lutf Ali was now 
obliged to flee from his own army at Kerman to escape 
his father's fate. He took refuge with the Arab chief of 
Bushire, thanks to whose support he was enabled to enter 
Shiraz. There he put to death Sayyid Murad, its 
Governor, who had declared himself King, and then 
ascended the throne. Shortly afterwards Aga Mohamed 
marched south and was attacked by the young Prince, 
who, however, was soon compelled to retire on Shiraz 
owing to the defection of one of his contingents. As before, 
Shiraz remained impregnable and Aga Mohamed returned 
to Teheran. 

The Expedition of Lutf Ali against Kerman^ a.h. 1205 
(1790). — In the following year Aga Mohamed was 
engaged in a campaign in Azerbaijan, and Lutf Ali, un- 
willing, if not unable, to support the forces he had collected 
at the expense of the province of Fars, marched against 
Kerman. Its Governor agreed to pay revenue and to 
submit, but declined to appear in the royal camp. Lutf 
Ali refused to accept this partial submission and besieged 
Kerman ; but the winter was unusually severe, and lack 
of supplies forced him to raise the siege and retire. 

Haji Ibrahim, — One of the striking personalities of the 
period — he may even be termed a King-Maker — was Haji 

(From a picture in the I'alace at Shiraz. ) 
(Taken from Sir Harford Jones Brydges' Mission to Persia.) 


Ibrahim, son of Haji Hashim, a magistrate of Shiraz. 
He had rendered good service to Jafar by securing the 
adhesion of his native city when the Zand chief had fled 
from Isfahan, and had been rewarded by appointment as 
Kalantar^ of Fars, a position which is still held by his 
family. Upon the assassination of Jafar, Haji Ibrahim won 
over the Shirazis to the side of Lutf Ali, who consequently 
owed to him his throne. Lutf Ali was noted before his 
accession for kindness of heart and generosity, and these 
qualities, combined with his unrivalled skill as a leader and 
man-at-arms, caused him to be beloved by all ; but upon 
securing the throne he became imperious and overbearing. 
During his absence in Kerman many charges had been 
made against Haji Ibrahim, who was a strong and astute 
personality somewhat after the type of Bismarck, and whose 
services to his master were dangerous by reason of their 
magnitude. The case which convinced him that it would 
be imprudent to continue to serve Lutf Ali was that of 
a certain Mirza Mehdi, an army accountant who had been 
convicted of embezzlement by Jafar and sentenced to lose 
his ears. When Jafar had been assassinated his head was 
cut off and thrown from the citadel, and it was alleged 
against Mirza Mehdi that he had avenged himself by 
cutting off the ears from his master's head. Haji Ibrahim, 
aflSrming that he did not believe the report, had persuaded 
Lutf Ali to pardon the man, and even to bestow upon him 
a robe of honour. Jafar's widow reproached her son for 
this treatment of a man guilty of so great an insult to the 
dead Jafar, and thereupon Lutf Ali, in a hasty moment, con- 
demned him to be flung into a fire. Haji Ibrahim himself 
informed Malcolm that this was the reason for his deser- 
tion of Lutf Ali ; but it is more probable that his treachery 
had a personal motive, in the desire to be dissociated from 
a losing cause. 

His Successful Plot. — In a.h. 1205 (1791) Lutf Ali 
marched north to meet the army of Aga Mohamed, and 
Haji Ibrahim took advantage of his absence from Shiraz 

^ Kalantar signifies Chief Civil Magistrate. The Kaivam-ul-Mulk is the title now 
borae by the head of the family. In a poem by Hafiz reference is made to Haji Kawam- 
u-Din and the late Kaivam-ul-Mulk quoted the verse to me and stated that it referred to 
his ancestor. This, however, is denied in some quarters. 


to seize the commanders of the garrison and of the 
citadel. He then communicated with one of his brothers, 
who excited a mutiny in the army. Lutf Ali, deserted 
by his officers, retired on Shiraz, which he hoped to 
recover, but he was deserted by all his soldiers and forced 
to flee to the coast. The Shaykh of Bushire who had 
formerly befriended him was dead, and his successor was 
hostile, but, nothing daunted, he collected a small force 
at Bandar Rig, and after defeating first the Shaykh of 
Bushire and then the Governor of Kazerum reappeared 
before Shiraz. 

The Campaigns of Lutf Ali Khan against Aga Mohamed, 
— The military qualities of Lutf Ali Khan shone brilliantly 
in the unequal struggle that followed. He was first 
victorious over a force detached by Aga Mohamed to 
support Haji Ibrahim at Shiraz. A powerful army sent 
to avenge this disaster had actually defeated the Zand 
Prince, when, rallying his men, he charged the Kajar 
troops who were looting his camp and turned his reverse 
into a decisive victory. Aga Mohamed at length took 
the field in person with his main force, but the gallant 
Lutf Ali charged and scattered the advance-guard. Then 
by night he penetrated the Kajar army, which partially 
dispersed, and he would have entered the royal tent, but, 
being assured that his enemy had fled, he decided to 
await the dawn in order to make sure of the treasure. 
To his dismay the Muezzin sounded the call to prayer, 
which proved that Aga Mohamed had not fled, and, his 
Arabs having scattered in search of plunder, the ill-fated 
prince was compelled to retreat, and so lost the throne of 

Upon reaching the province of Kerman he set about 
collecting a new force, but his Kajar pursuers were too 
numerous to be faced, and he fled to Tabas, where Mir 
Hasan Khan ^ espoused his cause. With a small body of 
two hundred men he crossed the Lut to Yezd, whose 
Governor he defeated, and then marched to Abarguh on 
the northern borders of Pars. Being joined there by his 

1 Malcolm terms him Husayn, but I have the authority of the present chief for 
writing Hasan. 

c/: .' 



adherents, he laid siege to Darabjird, but a Kajar army 
forced him to retreat on Tabas, whose chief advised him 
to seek the support of Timur Shah, the Durrani Amir. 
He followed this advice, and was actually travelling towards 
Kandahar when news reached him of the death of the 
Afghan Amir. 

The Final Act of the Drama, a,h, 1208 (1794). — While 
hesitating what course to pursue, the Zand refugee received 
letters from two chiefs of Narmashir offering him their 
support. He hastened to accept this opportune proposal 
and determined to surprise Kerman with the men he was 
able to collect. Moving by forced marches, he detached 
his uncle Abdulla Khan to make a feint on one side of 
the city, and when the defenders' attention was fully 
occupied he escaladed the fort before the alarm could be 
given. The garrison fought stoutly, but was overcome, 
and Kerman fell to Lutf Ali Khan through' this brilliant 
feat of arms. 

Aga Mohamed realized the seriousness of the situation, 
and with all the troops he could muster advanced to fight 
what proved to be the last campaign against his rival. 
Some four miles to the west of Kerman lies the entrenched 
camp which formed the headquarters of the besiegers. 
For four months the heroic Lutf Ali held out in the city, 
until famine had cut off more than half its inhabitants. 
At length the Kajar troops were admitted by treachery, 
but were beaten back. But they were admitted again, 
and on this occasion in overwhelming force. Seeing that 
all was lost and that the city gates were guarded, Lutf 
Ali, after keeping up the fight until dark, crossed the 
ditch on planks by night with only three followers, and 
breaking through the cordon escaped to Bam, one hundred 
and twenty miles to the east. 

A brother of the chief of Bam had been among the 
supporters of Lutf Ali in Kerman, and, having no news 
of this brother, the chief came to the conclusion that he 
must have fallen into the hands of the Kajars. He 
decided in consequence to attempt to win the favour of 
Aga Mohamed by seizing his guest, who, though warned 
of his danger, refused to believe in the possibility of such 

384 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, lxxih 

unspeakable treachery. In the end he mounted his horse 
to escape, but the beast was hamstrung, and the last 
Persian hero fell wounded into the hands of his deadly 
foe. No mercy was shown by the victor. The gallant 
Lutf Ali was blinded — according to one account, by the 
very hands of the brutal Aga Mohamed — besides suffering 
other indignities. He was then sent to Teheran, where 
he was strangled. 

The Fate of Kerman. — Kerman was treated with almost 
inconceivable cruelty. Not only were its women handed 
over to the soldiery, who were encouraged to rape and to 
murder, but the Kajar victor ordered that twenty thousand 
pairs of eyes should be presented to him. These he 
carefully counted, and then he remarked to the officer 
charged with the atrocious task, "Had one pair been 
wanting, yours would have been taken ! " Thus almost 
the entire male population was blinded, and their women 
were handed over to the soldiery as slaves. In order to 
commemorate the capture of Lutf Ali Khan in a suitable 
manner, Aga Mohamed ordered six hundred prisoners to 
be decapitated. Their skulls were then carried to Bam by 
three hundred other prisoners, who were then also killed, 
and a pyramid of skulls was erected on the spot where 
Lutf Ali Khan was taken. This pyramid was seen by 
Pottinger in 1 8 10. Kerman has never recovered. To-day 
it possesses more beggars and suffers from greater poverty 
than perhaps any other city in Persia. 

The Downfall of the Zand Dynasty, — The awful 
massacre and the extirpation of the family ended the 
short-lived Zand dynasty. Lutf Ali possessed remarkable 
beauty of physique, a valour which has seldom, if ever, 
been exceeded, and leadership in the field of a very high 
order. Unfortunately his severity and his imperious and 
overbearing character, which would not allow him to stoop 
to conciliation, cost him the support of the great families. 
Fighting gallantly against hopeless odds, he long main- 
tained the struggle, but in the end he lost the throne of 
Persia to the rival Kajar chief.^ 

^ In the introduction to The Dynasty of the Kajars^ Sir H. Jones Brydges gives an 
interesting account of the interviews he had with Lutf Ali Khan, who impressed him 
most favourably. 

Aga Mohamed Shah. 



Aga Mohamed 6talt dans Tusage, k regard de ses servlteurs qui avaient le 
malheur de lui d^plaire, de leur faire ouvrir le ventre, et arracher les entrailles. 
Nous pourrions citer sa vie enti^re, pour montrer a quel point cet homme 
fut atroce. — Voyage en Perscj by G. A. Olivier, v. 136. , 

^ga Mohamed Khan^ Kajar. — The memory of few 
Persians is so universally execrated as that of Aga 
Mohamed Khan, the founder of the Kajar dynasty. The 
eldest of the nine sons of Mohamed Husayn Khan, he 
was captured and castrated by Adil Shah when a boy of 
five, and this misfortune would sufficiently account for 
the vindictiveness and cruelty which have branded the 
Eunuch-Monarch for all time.-^ 

Karim Khan, who was eminently conciliatory, had 
married Aga Mohamed's sister, and treated his brother- 
in-law, who lived at his court as a hostage, with special 
kindness. Moreover, realizing his shrewdness and 
capacity, he frequently asked his advice and paid him 
the signal compliment of naming him Piran-wisa, after 
the celebrated Vizier of Afrasiab, the legendary King of 
Turan. This kindness the vindictive Kajar repaid by 
cutting the carpets he sat on in the audience-room. 

Hearing from his sister that Karim Khan was at the 
point of death, Aga Mohamed quitted Shiraz on the 
pretext of a hawking excursion, and on his return learned 
at the city gate that the Regent was dead. He immedi- 

1 The character of Aga Mohamed is well pourtrayed in the historical novel Zohrab 
the Hostage, by James Morier. G. A. Olivier in vol. v. of his Voyage en Perse also 
gives an excellent contemporary account. 

VOL. II 385 2 C 


ately loosed a hawk and under the pretence of looking 
for it disappeared from sight and rode off north. He 
reached Isfahan, a distance of three hundred and sixteen 
miles, in three days, and almost without halting continued 
his journey to Mazanderan, seizing a revenue caravan on 
the way. Upon his arrival in his native province many 
members of his tribe rallied round him. He was, how- 
ever, opposed by his half-brother, Murtaza Kuli,^ who 
proclaimed himself king, and it was not until after many 
vicissitudes of fortune, during the course of which he was 
once taken prisoner, that he was in a position to make 
himself master of the Caspian provinces. 

The Expulsion of a Russian Expedition by Aga Mohamed^ 
A.D. 178 1. — During this period of his chequered career 
Aga Mohamed came into contact with a Russian expedi- 
tion, consisting of four frigates and two sloops, which 
in 1 78 1 anchored off Ashraff and extorted permission to 
construct a trading factory. When the fortress — for such 
it proved to be — was nearly completed, the Khan invited 
the Russian officers to an entertainment, where they were 
seized. They were then offered the alternative of either 
destroying their fort or being hanged. Their choice was 
soon made ; the fort was demolished, and the Muscovites 
were driven with contumely back to their ships. 

The Independent Provinces of Persia. — The series of 
campaigns culminating in the awful tragedy in the Kerman 
province described in the previous chapter left Aga 
Mohamed the victor but hardly the undisputed master ot 
Persia. Before we come to the steps he took to con- 
solidate his power at home and abroad, it is necessary 
to give a brief account both of the independent provinces 
of Persia and also of her neighbours. 

Khorasan was nominally ruled by the unfortunate 
Shah Rukh, but in reality was broken up among a 
number of independent chiefs. At Meshed the two sons 
of the monarch, NasruUa Mirza and Nadir Mirza^ fought 
for power, and their feuds resulted in the plunder of the 
shrine of the Imam Riza, each prince in turn robbing it of 

1 His only full brother, Husayn Kuli Khan, the father of Fath Ali Shah, had been 
killed by the Turkoman at the instigation of the Kajar Khan of the rival branch, after 
his flight from Damghan recorded in the previous chapter. 


some of its treasures. NasruUa Mirza^ being worsted, 
sought aid from Karim Khan, but this was refused, and 
soon afterwards he died. 

Meshed was next seized by Mamish Khan of Chinaran, 
a petty Kurdish chief, who held it for five years until the 
authority of Shah Rukh was restored by Timur Shah, the 
Durrani monarch, who retained the suzerainty established 
by his father. Of the independent rulers, Ishak Khan 
Karai was the most celebrated. A man of low birth, he 
occupied Turbat-i-Haydari, some eighty miles to the 
south of Meshed, and built a caravanserai with money 
supplied by the chief of his tribe. Before the completion 
of this building, which was strongly fortified, intrigues 
had resulted in the death of his master, whose sons fled 
the country, and Ishak Khan gradually carved out a 
province for himself and became a power in the land. 

In the south of the province, Mir Hasan Khan of 
Tabas, a descendant of the Beni Shayban who had aided 
Lutf Ali, held a district bordering on the Lut and played a 
leading part in Khorasan. Of the other districts, Nishapur 
was independent under a Bayat chief ; Kain was under an 
Arab ruler descended from the Khuzayma ; Turshiz was 
ruled by another Arab family of the Mishmast tribe. 
Zafaranlu Kurds governed in Kuchan and Shadillu Kurds 
in Bujnurd ; Sabzawar was held by a chief of the Ghilichi, 
a Turkish tribe, and finally Sistan was ruled by a petty 
chief who claimed Keianian descent.^ 

We now turn westward to Kurdistan. The descend- 
ants of the ancient Karduchi maintained almost complete 
independence on the Persian side of the frontier, and on 
the Turkish side only the sections occupying accessible 
lands obeyed the Pasha of Baghdad. Of the Kurdish 
chiefs on the Persian side of the frontier, the most 
powerful was Khusru Khan, Vali of Ardelan. From 
Sinna, his capital, he ruled a large district, and at this city 
his son entertained Malcolm in princely fashion in 1 8 1 o. 
The Vali of Ardelan had supported the claims of Karim 
Khan, but afterwards, having espoused the cause of Ismail 

1 It has been my task to trace the fortunes of these tribes, almost all of which are 
to be found in or near the districts they ruled a century ago. 


Khan and defeated Jafar Khan, he sent the spoils to Aga 
Mohamed Khan and thenceforward became his staunch 
supporter. Baluchistan at this period was ruled by Nasir 
1.5 the Great, who reigned from 1750 to 1793, and whose 
sway was acknowledged as far west as Bampur. He was 
entirely independent. The rest of Persia had been the 
cock-pit for the various pretenders to the throne, who 
had fought for power as far north as the Caspian Sea and 
as far south as the Persian Gulf. 

The Neighbouring States, — Among the foreign countries 
Afghanistan was peaceful under Timur Shah ; and his son 
Zaman Shah at the opening of his reign was too much 
occupied with internal troubles to be an aggressive 
neighbour. Bokhara was ruled by Begi Jan,^ a Dervish 
of the royal house, who extended the sway of the Uzbegs 
over the whole of the region lying between the Amu 
Darya and the Sir Darya. The reduction of Merv 
opened the way for an invasion of Khorasan. In a.h. 
1209 (1794) Begi Jan led his horsemen to the gates of 
Meshed, but, finding it beyond his power to reduce 
the capital of Khorasan, he informed his army that the 
Imam Riza had appeared to him in a dream and commanded 
him to spare the sacred city. It is curious that the 
Uzbegs were content to raid and never attempted to 
conquer Khorasan. 

Turkey, which for many centuries had been Iran's 
most formidable and aggressive neighbour, was at this 
period too much occupied with European politics to take 
any active interest in Persian affairs. The Ottoman 
power was represented by Sulayman Aga, the Pasha of 
Baghdad, who had defended Basra against the forces of 
Karim Khan. His policy, much to the advantage of Aga 
Mohamed, was invariably friendly towards Persia. 

The Invasion of Georgia^ a.h. 1209 (1795). — We come 
next to the state of Georgia. Upon the death of Nadir 
Shah, Heraclius, who had served him faithfully, had not 
only freed himself but, as already mentioned, had annexed 
Persian territory up to the Araxes. He was, however, 
shrewd enough to realize that as soon as Persia was reunited 

^ Malcolm, ii. p. 243, gives an interesting account of this remarkably clever man. 


Georgia would be invaded. By way of insurance against 
such an event Heraclius in 1783 signed a treaty with 
Russia, in which he renounced all connexion with Persia 
and entered into an offensive and defensive alliance with 
the Northern Power. The Empress Catherine, in turn, 
bound herself and her successors to protect the integrity 
of Georgia. 

In 1795 Aga Mohamed, after summoning Heraclius 
to do homage, advanced from Ardebil with an army sixty 
thousand strong, marching in three divisions. The first 
moved by the plain of Moghan to levy arrears of 
tribute ; the second marched on Erivan, which was 
garrisoned by fifteen thousand Georgians ; and the third 
under the Shah himself undertook the reduction of Shisha, 
a hill-fort situated on the left bank of the Aras. Aga 
Mohamed, after failing in his attack on Shisha* left a force 
to blockade it and joined the second division before 
Erivan. That famous fortress also was too strong to be 
taken by an enemy unprovided with a battering train, and 
consequently the Shah was again obliged to leave a portion 
of his army to blockade the garrison. He then marched 
to Ganja, where he eflFected a junction with the column 
which had passed through Moghan unopposed. Heraclius, 
instead of relying on his fortresses and awaiting aid from 
Russia, rashly met the invaders though they outnumbered 
him in the proportion of four to one, and the Georgians 
after a heroic struggle were overpowered and defeated. 
Tiflis was taken by the Persians without resistance. The 
old and infirm and all the priests were massacred, and 
the able-bodied of both sexes, to the number of twenty 
thousand, were carried ojfFinto slavery. Erivan surrendered 
to the Shah after the fall of Tiflis, but Shisha continued 
to resist. 

The Coronation of Aga Mohamed Khan^ a.h. 12 10 
(1796). — Aga Mohamed had not been formally crowned, 
but on returning from his successful expedition into 
Georgia he consented to the ceremonial after repeated 
entreaties. He judiciously refused to wear the four- 
plumed crown of Nadir Shah, and contented himself with 
a small circular diadem known as Kulla Keiani^ or the 


" Keianian Headpiece." He also girded on the sacred 
sword of the Safavis at Ardebil. 

The Reduction of Khorasan^ a.h. 1210 (1796), — 
Strengthened in prestige by his coronation, the Shah 
determined to subdue Khorasan. He marched by way 
of Astrabad, which he beautified with buildings that still 
remain, and after punishing the Turkoman directed his 
march on Meshed. No resistance was even contemplated, 
the petty chiefs mentioned above proflFered their allegiance 
one by one, and Nadir Mirza fled to Afghanistan, leaving 
his blind parent to the tender mercies of his hereditary 

The main objects of Aga Mohamed were to seize 
Khorasan and to strengthen it against the Uzbegs. In 
addition, he coveted the splendid jewels which he knew 
that Shah Rukh possessed and had concealed from every 
one. The wretched man, now over sixty years of age, 
swore solemnly that he had nothing of the kind, but his 
oaths were disregarded and torture was applied by the 
pitiless Kajar. Day by day, under the influence of the 
agony inflicted, he revealed the secret hiding-places of 
his hoarded wealth. The celebrated ruby of Aurangzeb 
was produced only when a circle of paste had been put 
upon his head and molten lead poured on to it. Aga 
Mohamed, with whom love of jewelry was almost a 
mania, was overjoyed at securing this priceless stone. 
He gave orders for the tortures to cease ; but they had 
been too much for the descendant of Nadir Shah, who 
died soon afterwards from their eflPects. 

The Russian Invasion^ a.h. 12 10 (1796). — In connexion 
with the struggle for power between Aga Mohamed and 
his half-brothers, reference has already been made to 
Murtaza Kuli Khan, who after his defeat fled to Russia. 
There he was well treated, and it was apparendy intended 
to utilize him for the furtherance of Russian ambitions. 
Catherine was undoubtedly chagrined by her failure to 
succour Georgia in accordance with the treaty, and 
determined to avenge the Persian invasion. In 1796 a 
Russian army forty thousand strong compelled the sur- 
render of Derbent, Baku and other fortified places, and 

l-'ro)ii a />Jioto^y<ip/t /y Major J. //'. ll'nison. 



the Russian general encamped for the winter on the 
plain of Moghan, with the entire country to the north 
in his possession. Aga Mohamed was preparing to take 
the field in the spring, when the Empress Catherine died, 
the army was withdrawn, and the Russian peril disappeared. 

The Shah, delighted at this extraordinary piece of 
good fortune, resolved to invade Georgia again. He 
was within sixty miles of the Araxes when the inhabitants 
of Shisha, who had expelled their governor, begged him 
to take possession of the fortress. After a forced march 
he found the Aras in flood ; but his men crossed it, 
partly in boats and partly by swimming, and Shisha at 
last fell into his hands. 

The Assassination of Aga Mohamed Shah^ a.h. 121 i 
(1797). — Three days after the capture of this stronghold, 
the Shah was disturbed by the noise of a quarrel between 
two of his personal servants, and ordered that both should 
be at once put to death. Sadik Khan Shakaki interceded 
for them, and on the ground that it was the night of 
Friday ^ and sacred to prayer, the execution of the sentence 
was deferred until the following morning. With folly 
so extreme that it almost suggests mental derangement, 
Aga Mohamed allowed the condemned men meanwhile 
to perform their duties about his person. At night, with 
the aid of a third accomplice, they assassinated their 
master. Like his victim, Shah Rukh, he died in the 
sixty-third year of his age. 

His Character, — Thanks to Malcolm we have a life- 
like portrait of the Eunuch -Shah. At a distance his 
slight form resembled that of a youth, but a close in- 
spection revealed a beardless and shrivelled face horrible 
to contemplate. Yet he was a remarkable man, and his 
keen insight into character, his sagacity, patience, and 
courage secured to him the throne of Persia in spite of 
his physical disabilities. Malcolm states that his three 
ruling passions were power, avarice, and revenge, but 
that he was able to subordinate everything to his passion 
for power. This was in the first instance personal, but 
it also aimed at making the Kajars the royal tribe. Seeing 

^ The night of Friday begins at sunset on Thursday. 


clearly that his ambition could not be realized unless he 
was supported by a united tribe, he forgave the Kajar 
chiefs who had killed his father and had insulted himself, 
and bound them to him by repeated acts of kindness. 
He showed his judgment and insight by the unreserved 
trust he reposed in Haji Ibrahim ; although, according 
to common belief, he warned his heir that he was too 
powerful a subject to be allowed to live. He treated his 
soldiers with justice, and, if policy demanded it, he could 
display moderation, the rarest of qualities in a despot. 

As we have seen in his dealings with Shah Rukh, 
avarice was a besetting vice. One of his methods of 
making money was to sell an intended victim to an 
enemy, with full powers to wring out the last coin 
in the wretched man's possession. In the pursuit of 
money he displayed a childishness which is not un- 
frequently associated with absolute power. He once 
overheard a peasant whose ears he had ordered to be 
cut off promising the executioner a few pieces of silver 
if only the tips were cut. The offender was astonished 
when the Shah informed him that, by doubling the offer 
in favour of his sovereign, he could save his ears entirely ! 

Aga Mohamed^s cruelty has been sufficiently exempli- 
fied. Of his treachery it will be enough to give a single 
instance. His brother, Jafar Kuli Khan, who had served 
him with conspicuous valour, asked for the governorship 
of Isfahan as a reward. This was refused, and, as he 
subsequently evaded a request to appear at Court, Aga 
Mohamed became seriously alarmed. Fearing to employ 
force, he induced Jafar Kuli's mother to persuade her 
son that the Shah was ready to appoint him to Isfahan, 
on the sole condition that he should pass through Teheran 
and declare his forgiveness for the treatment he had 
received. These representations were supported by solemn 
assurances of safety. The Prince, too confiding, believed 
them, and was assassinated by order of his brother. The 
latter, in order to keep the letter of his oath on the Koran 
that Jafar Kuli should spend only one night at Teheran, 
had the corpse immediately removed. This dastardly 
act recalls the dark deeds attributed to Louis XI. of 


'•'-,', ■Mv>-,J hv I'-VVs-'-i^ 


(From an original Persian painting.) 

(From Sn- John Malcolm's History of Persia, 1815, vol. ii. ) 


France, whom Aga Mohamed closely resembled, alike 
in his tortuous policy, his aversion to display, and his 
strange devotional fervour. As a ruler he was not faced 
with the difficulties of Nadir Shah, being singularly 
fortunate in the unaggressive character of his two im- 
portant neighbours, Turkey and Afghanistan. Although 
not a great soldier, he overcame all rivals, mainly through 
his judgment and practical capacity, and thereby succeeded 
in once more uniting Iran. Oderint dum metuant might 
have been his motto, but he lived in a cruel age when 
might was right. It must be placed on record to his 
credit that after his authority had been established the 
roads became safe and trade prospered, whereas under 
Nadir the country had been depopulated. 

The Accession of Fath Ali Shah, — The body of Aga 
Mohamed was left unburied in the wild confusion that 
followed his death. The army for the most part broke 
up and dispersed, but the influence of Haji Ibrahim kept 
together a sufficient force to march to Teheran in support 
of Fath Ali, the nephew and heir of the deceased 
Shah. The capital was held in his behalf by a Kajar 
chief, and upon his arrival from Fars, of which he was 
governor, he was admitted and instandy proclaimed Shah. 

Various Pretenders. — Sadik Khan Shakaki, who after 
the assassination of Aga Mohamed had secured possession 
of the crown jewels, collected fifteen thousand Kurds and 
made a bid for the throne. He marched on Kazvin, and 
was defeated in its vicinity by Fath Ali Shah, whose force 
was only half that of his rival. Sadik Khan fled and pur- 
chased his pardon, not once but twice, by means of the 
crown jewels. Another claimant was Mohamed Khan, son 
of Zaki Khan Zand, who gained possession of Isfahan, but 
was soon driven out to the Bakhtiari Mountains. Aided 
there by some Kurds, he attempted to surprise a Persian 
army under Mohamed Vali Khan, but was defeated, 
captured, and blinded. A third pretender was Husayn 
Kuli Khan, brother of the Shah. This prince had done 
good service against Sadik Khan and had been rewarded 
by the Governorship of Fars. There he wasted his time 
in pleasure and dissipation until, resenting the appoint- 

394 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, lxxiv 

ment from Teheran of a general to command the Fars 
army, he rebelled. He was joined by Mohamed Vali 
Khan, and the Shah was at the same time further 
weakened by the revolt of Sulayman Khan Kajar, the 
Governor of Azerbaijan, who hoped to gain the throne 
by attacking whichever of the two brothers emerged as 
victor from the impending struggle. But the brothers 
came to terms, owing to the intervention of their mother, 
and Sulayman Khan, seeing his hopes disappear, took 
sanctuary in the royal stable at Teheran. With remark- 
able generosity the Shah not only pardoned him, but 
reappointed him Governor of Azerbaijan. 

The last important pretender was Nadir Mirza, who 
on hearing of the death of Aga Mohamed had returned 
to Khorasan from Afghanistan and taken possession of 
Meshed. The Shah marched into Khorasan to assert 
his authority. Nishapur shut its gates and was stormed, 
and Turbat-i-Haydari also was taken. Upon the arrival 
of the Persian army before Meshed, Nadir Mirza 
submitted and was pardoned. 

Fath Ali Shah. 




Buonaparte saisit adroltement roccaslon de la paix de Tilsit pour engager 
Alexandre d'envoyer une arm^e le printemps prochain en Perse, qui s'unirait 
avec une armde fran9aise qui devait passer par Constantinople et T Asie Mineure, 
et de \k traversant la Perse, organiser les troupes que la Cour d'Isfahan devait 
donner pour sa part, et commencer quelque acte hostile contre les possessions 
de la Compagnie des Indes. — From an Official Document oj the period. 

The Afghan duestion. — It is interesting to trace the 
beginning of the permanent British connexion^ with 
Persia rather more than a century ago, but it is difficult 
to-day to realize that the cause of the despatch of the first 
mission to the Court at Teheran was the hope that Persian 
military action would restrain Zaman Shah, Amir of Kabul, 
who after establishing his position at home was aspiring 
to continue the aggressive r61e originated by Ahmad 
Shah. In 1798 Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General 
of Bengal, received a letter from the Afghan prince giving 
notice of his proposed expedition into India, and re- 
questing that the English army should co-operate in 
driving back the Marathas from the north into the Deccan. 
The Governor-General at this period was at war with 
Tippu Sultan, who with French assistance was making 
great effi^rts to drive the British out of India ; and in 

^ Malcolm's history ends at this point. Among the many works consulted by me 
are England and Russia in the East, by Sir H. Rawlinson j History of Persia, by R. G. 
Watson j The War in Afghanistan^ and Life of Sir John Malcolm, by J. W. Kaye, and 
Mission to the Court of Persia, by Sir Harford Jones Brydges. 



pursuance of this object he had urged Zaman Shah to 
invade the Panjab. Tippu was fortunately killed at the 
fall of Seringapatam, in 1798, but this success did not 
cause Wellesley to relax his precautions towards the 
north, more especially as he was aware of negotiations 
which were being conducted with the Afghan Amir, by 
Vizier Ali of Oude and other powerful Indians, including 
Hindu Rajahs. To combat these dangerous intrigues the 
Governor-General instructed Mehdi Ali Khan, a natural- 
ized Persian who was acting as the Company's Resident 
at Bushire, " to take measures for inducing the Court 
of Persia to keep Shah Zaman in perpetual check (so as 
to preclude him from returning to India), but without 
any decided act of hostility." The success of this policy 
of inducing Persia to intervene in Afghanistan was 
already assured. Zaman Shah about this period had 
instructed his Vizier to send an envoy to Haji Ibrahim 
with a demand that his master should surrender Khorasan 
to Afghanistan. This demand naturally irritated the 
young Shah, who dictated a reply to the effect that it was 
his intention to restore the eastern boundaries of Persia 
to the condition which had existed under the Safavi 
dynasty. In other words, the independence of Afghanistan 
was to be swept away, Herat, Kandahar, and Kabul being 
all included in the Safavi Empire. Fath Ali Shah held 
good cards, for two of Zaman Shah's brothers, Mahmud 
and Firu^, had taken refuge with the "Asylum of the 
Universe." In 1798 these princes were sent with a 
Persian force to Afghanistan ; but little was effected. In 
the following year Fath Ali Shah took the field in person. 
He led an army into Khorasan to punish the governors 
and chiefs who had rebelled. There he received an 
embassy from Zaman Shah requesting him to return to 
Teheran ; and to this he tamely agreed, on condition that 
the Amir's fugitive brothers should be well received in 
Afghanistan. The actual result of the Persian military 
operations was slight, but the consequent retirement of 
Zaman Shah from Lahore to Peshawar, in order that he 
might be ready to fight if necessary, relieved the Afghan ' 
pressure on India. 


The Mission of Mehdi Ali Khan, 1799. — Mehdi Ali 
Khan, a skilful diplomatist of the Persian school, had written 
letters from Bushire to the Court at Teheran in which 
he excited the indignation of the Shah by an account of 
atrocities committed by the Sunni Afghans on the Shias 
of Lahore, thousands of whom, he declared, had fled for 
refuge to the territories ruled by the East India Company, 
and at the same time urged that if Zaman Shah were 
checked a service would be rendered to God and man. 
He stated, furthermore, that the Governor-General did 
not at all apprehend an Afghan invasion of Hindustan, 
because the fame of the English artillery was well known. 
As an example of what English troops could do, he 
asserted that seven hundred of these brave soldiers had 
defeated fhe army of Suraj-u-Dola numbering three 
hundred thousand men ! * 

In the autumn of 1799 Mehdi Ali Khan was received 
in person by the Shah. Spending large sums in presents, 
he succeeded in persuading the Persian monarch to 
continue hostilities against Afghanistan ; and he then 
returned to Bushire, where he met Captain Malcolm, 
who had recently landed on his first memorable mission. 

The French Peril to India, — It was owing to the 
fantastic strain in Napoleon Buonaparte's character that 
Persia was brought within the orbit of European politics. 
Among his far-reaching plans was one for using the Shah 
as an instrument in his scheme of world politics, more 
especially in connexion with the invasion of India ; and 
at this time the minds of the British rulers in that country 
were obsessed with fears of such an attack. To us, who 
have studied large scale maps and are familiar with the 
barrenness both of Persia and of Afghanistan, the scheme 
has an impracticable appearance. But in 1800 it was 
seriously contemplated by the Emperor Paul of Russia and 
by Napoleon, to both of whom the difficulties to be 
encountered were unknown. Examining the project on 
a small scale map, they saw that the shortest line to India 
ran via Baku across the Caspian Sea to Astrabad Bay. 
From this point the line would pass through Astrabad, 
Meshed, and Herat, and doubtless both the Persians 


and the Afghans would have been invited to join in the 
looting of India. Had the scheme ever taken practical 
shape it must have ended in disaster, owing not only 
to lack of supplies and sickness, but to attacks by local 
tribes and to the length ^ of the line of communications 
from France and from the Volga to India. 

It may be thought that our statesmen in India should 
have realized these facts. It must, however, be re- 
membered that preparations were actually made by 
Russia and that the scheme was upset only by the 
assassination of the Tsar. Moreover, the genius of 
Napoleon was so dazzling that no project seemed beyond 
his power of achievement, and consequently the sense 
of proportion was apt to be lost. Finally, the position 
of the British in India was none too strong, and the 
appearance of a Franco-Russian army in Persia would 
undoubtedly have reacted most unfavourably on the 
general situation. 

Malcolms First Mission^ 1800. — The mission of 
Captain Malcolm was decided upon before the news of 
the success of Mehdi Ali Khan had reached Calcutta. 
His instructions were to induce the Shah of Persia to 
bring pressure on Zaman Shah ; to counteract any 
possible designs of the French ; and to restore the 
prosperity of British and British Indian trade with Persia. 

The young Scotch officer, who held only a junior 
rank and might well have been looked down upon by 
Persians of high rank, was completely successful in his 
difficult task. He carefully studied the Persians, who 
were impressed by his strong personality ; he won favour 
by a generous and even lavish distribution of gifts ; and 
on arriving at Teheran he confirmed by his remarkable 
capacity the good report which had preceded him. 

Under these favourable conditions a political and com- 
mercial treaty was speedily negotiated between Malcolm 
and Haji Ibrahim, the Vizier. The Shah agreed to make 
no peace with the Amir of Afghanistan unless the latter 
renounced his designs on the British possessions in India. 

* From Astrabad to Herat is about six hundred and fifty miles, and from Herat to 
Kabul is another five hundred. 

(From a Persian picture.) 

f ihc Secretary of Stale for India.) 

(By kind permission o 


The British envoy, on his part, agreed to furnish 
munitions of war to the Shah in case he was attacked by 
the Afghans or the French. There were stringent pro- 
visions for the expulsion and " extirpation " of any French 
subjects who wished to settle in Persia. On the com- 
mercial side it was stipulated that English and Indian 
merchants should be permitted to settle free of taxes at 
the ports, and that English broad-cloth, iron, steel, and 
lead should be admitted free of duty. Thus Malcolm's 
first mission ended in complete success. Rawlinson, it 
is true, regards it as a failure inasmuch as it revealed to 
Persia our anxiety about "the road" to India. Although 
I realize the force of his objections, I am inclined to think 
that the Persians, who are remarkable for their political 
acumen, have not, since the reign of Nadir Shah at all 
events, required any tuition on the subject,#and that to 
have delayed on that account the opening up of relations 
with Persia, or to have ignored this important question, 
would have been a mistake. At the same time, the 
clauses directed against the French are certainly character- 
ized by extreme bitterness which invites hostile criticism. 

The Persian Embassy to India^ 1802. — Fath Ali Shah 
sent a return embassy to Bombay, headed by a certain 
Haji Khalil Khan. Most unfortunately, the envoy was 
killed in a quarrel which arose between his servants and 
the guard that attended him. The English authorities, 
who were much upset at the untoward occurrence, made 
the most handsome amends,^ and the Shah is said to have 
observed that more ambassadors might be killed on the 
same terms. 

Three years later Aga Nabi Khan, brother-in-law of 
the late envoy, reached India as the representative of 
Persia ; but the " sultanized " Governor-General had left 
India, profound indifference concerning Persia prevailed 
at Calcutta, more especially after the disastrous ending to 
the French campaigns in Syria and Egypt, and Aga Nabi 
Khan returned home in January 1807 a disappointed man. 
This policy of inertness, which took no notice of the 

^ Ismail Khan, son of the envoy, was granted a pension of two thousand rupees a 
month for life. He lived to enjoy this annuity for sixty-five years, and died in Paris, 
where he attended every performance of the opera during a period of fifty years. 


new situation created by the Russian and French advances, 
was deplorable and was destined to bear bitter fruit. 

The Downfall of Haji Ibrahim, — Fath Ali Shah, who 
owed his throne to Haji Ibrahim, became seriously- 
alarmed at his power, which, he feared, might result in 
his dethronement. Probably, too, he was influenced by 
his uncle's advice. Whatever the exact causes, it was 
decided to put an end to the King-Maker. By a pre- 
concerted plan all the members of his family were seized 
at their various seats of government and put to death, 
Haji Ibrahim himself being thrown into a cauldron of oil. 
The only son that was spared was a sickly boy, who not- 
withstanding his indifferent health lived to be the ancestor 
of the Kawam-ul-Mulk family. Haji Ibrahim was a great 
personality and a typical Persian of the period. One of 
many stories told about him is that when Malcolm brought 
the potato, then unknown in Persia, as a gift, explaining 
that it would be of great value as ah article of food to the 
people, the Vizier observed that he did not see how it 
could be a suitable gift for him,^ and that he would much 
prefer some rolls of English cloth. 

The Second Rebellion of Husayn Kuli Khan. — The Shah's 
brother, who was Governor of Kashan, once more made a 
bid for the throne. He obtained possession of Isfahan by 
means of a forged order, and then proceeded to raise an 
army in the Bakhtiari country. Fath Ali Shah acted with 
considerable promptitude. He rode to Isfahan (a distance 
of 280 miles) in four days, and, leaving a force to besiege 
it, set out in pursuit of his brother. Hearing that the 
rebel was making for the Turkish frontier, he detached a 
force to intercept him, and the Pretender in despair took 
sanctuary at Kum. 

The Execution of Nadir Mirza^ a.h. 12 16 (1802). The 

folly of Nadir Mirza brought about the final downfall of 
his family. After his pardon, recorded in the previous 
chapter, the Shah, with extraordinary leniency, permitted 
him to retain the governorship of Khorasan, but its chiefs 
complained so bitterly of his tyranny that Fath Ali felt 
bound to intervene. When the city was besieged. Nadir 
Mirza looted the shrine to pay his troops, and with his 


battle-axe, the family weapon, murdered a leading Sayyia 
who protested against the act of sacrilege. This atrocity- 
was his last. The whole city rose against him ; he was 
captured and sent to Teheran, and there by a cruel death 
expiated his crimes. 

The Expulsion of the Afghans from Narmashir and 
Sistan, — The district of Bam, which was the scene of the 
downfall of Lutf Ali Khan, was governed by a chief of 
the Ghilzai tribe, who also ruled Sistan and the date- 
growing district of Khabis. Under Fath Ali Shah this 
semi-independent ruler rebelled but was ejected without 
much difficulty, and the districts of Bam, Narmashir, and 
Khabis were restored to the province of Kerman. The 
Afghan occupation has not been forgotten, and I have 
been shown a tower which they built in Narmashir. 

French Overtures to Persia^ 1 802-1 804. — The schemes 
discussed by the First Consul and the Tsar were soon 
translated into French action. In 1802 overtures were 
made by France, apparently through her active Consular 
Agents, who, according to Rawlinson, " remained in Syria 
after the French evacuation of the country, and continued 
for many years to pursue a restless course of political 
adventure, spreading in the sequel a perfect net-work of 
intrigue over the whole face of Western Asia." These 
pioneer attempts were coldly received in Persia, but in 
1804 the French Government made proposals for an 
alliance against Russia. Fath Ali Shah had already 
applied for help to England through the Resident at 
Baghdad, and was also despatching a mission to India, 
and consequently no definite reply was sent to the French 

The First French Mission^ 1805. — In 1805 war broke 
out between France and Russia, and a French envoy, 
Colonel Romieu, appeared at Teheran with more precise 
proposals. Knowing that the loss of Georgia had affected 
Persia deeply, Napoleon offered, if the British alliance were 
repudiated by the Shah and India were invaded by a 
combined French and Persian army, to throw an auxiliary 
force into the lost province and to subsidize the Persian 
army. Fath Ali Shah was most unwilling to come to such 



an arrangement with a regicide nation, and at the first 
audience he merely asked the French representative 
" How are you ? " " How is Buonaparte ? " and " What 
made you kill your king ? '* Meanwhile the lack of 
rapid communications between Calcutta and London and 
the procrastination of the British Government had caused 
a long delay. The British Cabinet had debated on the 
question of giving assistance to Persia for two years with- 
out coming to any decision, and the Governor-General had 
referred the matter to London. 

The Treaty of Finkenstein^ 1807. — Disappointed in the 
quarter whence he had hoped for support, and with no 
British Minister at Teheran to maintain British influence, 
the Shah, realizing the seriousness of the Russian menace, 
responded to the overtures of the French Emperor, and 
followed up his letter by the despatch of Mirza Riza as an 
envoy to the French Court, which he reached at Tilsit. 
In his instructions it was laid down that, although the 
Shah regarded Russia as an ordinary enemy, yet she was 
" equally an enemy of the kings of Persia and of France, 
and her destruction accordingly became the duty of the 
two kings. France would attack her from that quarter ; 
Persia from this." A further instruction shows how 
completely the Shah had turned his back on the procrasti- 
nating British, for it was declared that " If the French have 
an intention of invading Khorasan, the king will appoint 
an army to go down by the road of Kabul and Kandahar." 
In other words, the Shah asserted his readiness to invade 
India. At the same time Mirza Riza was forbidden to 
cede a port for the use of the French " for their passage 
to Hindustan." A preliminary treaty, known as the treaty 
of Finkenstein, which embodied the conditions just 
mentioned, was signed in May 1807 ^^^ ^^^^ ^^ Teheran. 

The Gardanne Mission^ 1 807-1 808. — A few months 
later an important military mission, composed of General 
Gardanne and seventy commissioned and non-commis- 
sioned officers, appeared in Persia and set to work to 
train the Persian army on European lines. The French 
general was undoubtedly instructed to organize the army 
of the Shah with a view to its employment as an auxiliary 


to a French army in an invasion of India. The heading 
to this chapter demonstrates the far-reaching scope of 
Napoleon's scheme, and corroboration was received from 
Constantinople that the Porte had been approached with 
a view to the passage of a French army across the Ottoman 
dominions. Meanwhile the convention of Tilsit had 
been signed almost at the same time, and it is generally 
believed that the partition of the East was discussed by 
Napoleon and the Tsar Alexander at their historical 
meeting ; the fact that the French Emperor intended to 
appoint his brother Lucien to represent him at Teheran 
proves that he, at any rate, seriously intended to contest 
British supremacy in India. 

Fath Ali was deeply chagrined by the convention of 
Tilsit. The restoration of Georgia, for which he had 
hoped, was not even mentioned in it, and sinfe France 
had by its terms made peace with Russia friendly offices 
had to take the place of a French army. Nevertheless 
Napoleon, whose optimism was remarkable, undoubtedly 
hoped to conclude an offensive and defensive alliance with 

The Fight for Power in Afghanistan^ 1 799-1 808. — We 
must now turn to Afghanistan in order to record a fight 
for power which, together with the rise of Ranjit Singh, 
changed the whole situation and caused the Afghan peril 
to pass away. Zaman Shah owed his position to the 
support of Sirdar Payanda Khan, who had espoused his 
cause and seated him on the throne of Kabul. As was 
almost inevitable in Afghanistan, the Sirdar after a time 
fell into disfavour, plotted against his master, and was 
executed. He left behind him twenty-two sons, famous 
as the '' Barakzai brothers," the eldest of whom, Fath 
Khan, fled to Persia and joined Mahmud, brother of 
Zaman Shah, whom he persuaded to make a bid for the 
throne. Farrah was in the first place seized and, thanks 
to the aid given by the Barakzais, Kandahar subsequently 
fell. Mahmud then advanced on Kabul, and in 1800 
defeated Zaman Shah, whom he blinded. The wretched 
man escaped in the end to Ludhiana, where he was granted 
a pension by the Honourable East India Company. 


Mahmud Shah now occupied the throne of Kabul, Herat 
was held by his brother Firuz-u-Din, and Kandahar by his 
heir-apparent, Kamran Mirza. 

In 1803, owing to Fath Khan's protection of the Shias 
of Kabul from massacre, a plot was formed in favour of the 
Amir's brother, the Shuja-ul-Mulk, who seized the throne 
and imprisoned, but did not blind, Fath Khan. The 
latter submitted to the usurper, and for a few years Shah 
Shuja (as he is generally termed) ruled with the aid of 
the able Barakzai chief. He sent expeditions to Sind 
and Kashmir, but met with no success. 

Malcolm's Second Mission^ 1808. — The Home and 
Indian Governments were both alarmed by the rapidity 
with which French influence had become paramount at 
Teheran and the consequent increase in the French peril.^ 
Sir Harford Jones, who afterwards assumed the name of 
Brydges and who had served as Resident at Basra, was 
appointed Envoy Extraordinary from the Crown, and in 
1807 was despatched from England to Persia by way of 
the Cape with a commission which, although placing him 
in subordination to Lord Minto, the Governor-General, 
gave him full powers to negotiate a treaty between the 
King and the Shah. His expenses were chargeable to 
the Government of India. Meanwhile Lord Minto, who 
was at first ignorant of this appointment, realizing the 
urgency of the case, appointed Malcolm, now a Brigadier- 
General, to undertake much the same task. The latter, 
escorted by a powerful squadron, reached the Persian Gulf 
in May, 1808, at a time when the influence of General 
Gardanne was entirely in the ascendant. He was drilling 
the Persian army and constructing fortifications, and it 
was hoped that, through French influence, Georgia would 
be restored to Persia. In these circumstances the British 
Envoy, whose tone was perhaps too peremptory, was not 
treated with the courtesy due to his position. He was 
instructed by the Ministers of Fath Ali Shah to make his 

^ The further steps that were taken included the despatch, in this year, of Mount- 
stuart Elphinstone to Peshawar, where he concluded a treaty with Shah Shuja, by the 
terms of which Great Britain was bound to aid the Afghan ruler with money in case 
of a joint invasion of his territory by Persia and France. Shah Shuja, on his side, 
agreed to resist the confederates and to exclude all Frenchmen from his dominions for 
ever. Metcalfe was despatched on a similar mission to Ranjit Singh. 


representations to the Governor-General of Fars, and was 
debarred from approaching Teheran. 

Malcolm, justly incensed at the aifi-ont offered in his 
person to the Honourable East India Company, returned 
to India and urged that the island of Kharak should be 
occupied by Indian troops. This proposal was, after some 
consideration, accepted by Lord Minto ; but just when 
the troops were about to sail it became clear from the 
situation in Europe that France could not possibly spare 
an army for Persia, and the expedition was therefore 

The Mission of Sir Harford Jones^ 1 808-1 809. — British 
policy has ever been proverbially fortunate, and when, in 
the autumn of the same year. Sir Harford Jones appeared 
on the scene after the retirement of Malcolm, and pro- 
ceeded in the pompous language of the period ^^ to throw 
the aegis of the British Crown over the imperilled destinies 
of India," a reaction against the French had set in at 
Teheran. The Persians realized that General Gardanne 
had promised more than he could perform ; he had, in 
fact, overplayed his part. Jones pointed out that good 
offices were not sufficient to bind the hands of Russia, 
and when he proposed a British alliance, together with an 
annual subsidy of tomans 160,000 (>{^ 120,000) so long as 
Great Britain continued to be at war with Russia, and the 
services of British officers to train the Persian army, Fath 
Ali Shah agreed to give General Gardanne his passports. 
The British envoy, who had brought as a gift from 
George III. a fine diamond which excited the Shah's 
covetousness, was accorded a magnificent reception. Under 
these favourable conditions there were no delays, and 
in March, 1809, a preliminary treaty was negotiated, the 
terms of which were approved by both the Home and 
the Indian Governments, and formed the basis of the 
definitive treaty that was finally concluded. 

As might be supposed, the action of Sir Harford 
Jones, who was subordinate to the Governor-General, 
caused no little friction. Indeed so strained did his 
relations with India become that Lord Minto ordered 
the suspension of his functions, and his bills were pro- 


tested. It is stated that he had made remarks which 
tended to lower the dignity of the Governor-General. 
But inasmuch as he represented the Crown and had to 
explain to the Persians, when his bills were protested, the 
relation of the East India Company to the British Govern- 
ment, it would have been difficult for him to avoid giving 
offence, if offence was looked for.-^ After the lapse of 
years the good work done by both Malcolm and Jones 
remains, and the friction which was almost inevitable may 
be forgotten. The preliminary treaty was taken to Eng- 
land by James Morier, the author of the immortal " Hajji 
Baba," who was the secretary to the mission. Lord 
Minto accepted the arrangements which had been con- 
tracted with the Shah while condemning the behaviour 
of the negotiator, but insisted that the execution of the 
treaty should be entrusted to an officer nominated by 

Malcolm s Third Mission^ 1 8 1 o. — Malcolm was accord- 
ingly sent on a third mission which was brilliant in the 
extreme. It was magnificently equipped, and the envoy 
was accompanied by a large staff of officers, among whom 
were Monteith and Lindsay. The latter, a giant stand- 
ing 6 feet 8 inches, was an artillery officer, and such was 
his influence with the Persians, who compared him to 
Rustam, that he subsequently became Commander-in- 
Chief of the Persian army, a post which, under the name 
of Lindsay Bethune, he filled for many years with much 
credit. Malcolm was received with extraordinary marks 
of esteem and friendship, and his fine character, his justice, 
and his knowledge of the world impressed the Persians 
so much that all Englishmen in Persia still benefit from 
the high qualities displayed by their great representative. 
It was in his honour that the Persian decoration, "the 
Lion and the Sun,'* was inaugurated. At the same time, 
it must not be forgotten that Sir Harford Jones retained 
the control of diplomatic relations with Persia throughout. 

Actingon Malcolm's instructions, Pottinger and Christie 
made a daring journey of exploration through Baluchistan ; 
and Pottinger's Travels in Baluchistan^ recording the results 

^ In his Mission, etc., p. 209, Jones explains the whole circumstances of the case. 


of this adventure, remains a classic on the subject. This 
was not the only literary fruit of the British mission ; 
for Kinneir produced his able Geographical Memoir^ and 
Malcolm himself wrote a History of Persia^ as well as his 
light and entertaining Sketches of Persia. 

The Embassy of Haji Mirza Ahul Hasan Khan^ 1809- 
18 10. — In return for these embassies, Fath Ali Shah 
despatched Haji Mirza Abul Hasan Khan to the Court 
of St. Jameses. His special object was to ascertain clearly 
how the subsidy Persia' was entitled to receive under the 
treaty was to be paid. This versatile son of Iran has 
been immortalized by James Morier (who accompanied 
him on both his outward and his homeward journey) in 
" Hajji Baba in England/' ^ 

The Appointment of Sir Gore Ouseley^ 181 1. — The treaty 
negotiated by Sir Harford Jones was duly, ratified in 
England, and its negotiator was confirmed in his appoint- 
ment at Teheran, the Home Government deciding to retain 
permanent control of diplomatic relations with Persia. 
Upon his resignation in 181 1, he was succeeded by Sir 
Gore Ouseley, in whose suite were Major D'Arcy, better 
known as D'Arcy Todd, and a detachment of English 
sergeants of the 47th regiment. Sir William Ouseley, 
whose writings on Persia remain a classic, also accom- 
panied the mission. 

The Definitive Treaty^ 1 8 14. — Shortly after the conclusion 
of the treaty of Gulistan, which will be dealt with in the 
following chapter. Sir Gore Ouseley negotiated with Persia 
the definitive treaty based on Sir Harford Jones's pre- 
liminary agreement. This he took with him to England. 
A year later Mr. Ellis reached Teheran and, with Mr. 
Morier, concluded the final definitive treaty, which was 
signed on November 25, 1814.^ By the terms of this 
important document, which was specially declared to be 

1 Charles Lamb wrote of the Persian ambassador that he " is the principal thing 
talked of now. I sent some people to see him worship the sun at half-past six in the 
morning, but he did not come. . . . The common people call him Shaw Nonsense." 
His portrait, painted by Sir William Beechey, hangs in the India Office. The ambassador, 
on his return home, wrote a book termed Hairat-nama, or " Record of Wonders." 

2 Aitchison's Treaties^ number vii. The preamble runs : " These happy leaves are a 
nosegay plucked from the thornless garden of concord and tied by the hands of the 
plenipotentiaries," etc. 


defensive, all alliances between Persia and European 
nations hostile to Great Britain were made null and void, 
and all European armies were to be prevented from enter- 
ing Persia, if hostile to Great Britain. The Shah was 
furthermore bound to induce the rulers of Khwarazm, 
Tataristan, Bokhara, and Samarcand to oppose any army 
which might attempt to cross their territories with a view 
to the invasion of India. Mutual assistance was to be 
rendered in case of aggression, and the limits between 
Persia and Russia were to be determined by Great Britain, 
Persia, and Russia. With extraordinary generosity the 
subsidy was finally fixed at 200,000 tomans (equivalent 
to 15 lacSy or ;^ 150,000) and was not to be stopped unless 
Persia engaged in an aggressive war. It was to be spent 
under the superintendence of the British Minister. By 
another article endeavours were to be made to include 
Persia in any treaty of peace between Great Britain and 
a European Power at war with Persia, failing which 
military and financial support was to be given. As 
regards Afghanistan the British Government was not to 
interfere in case of war breaking out between Persia and 
the Amir, whereas Persia, on her part, agreed to attack 
Afghanistan if it went to war with Great Britain. 

It is easy to criticise various details of this treaty, as, 
for instance, the clause by which Great Britain was bound 
to interfere in boundary disputes between Persia and 
Russia ; or, again, the supposition that the Shah could 
influence the ruler of Tataristan to oppose an invading 
army betrayed much ignorance of political geography. 
The document, to be judged fairly, must be taken as a 
whole. We must bear in mind the keen struggle which 
the French had made to win over the Court of Persia, 
and the existence of a French peril, even though it loomed 
larger in the minds of men than reality justified. We 
must also not forget that there had been an Afghan peril. 
Taking everything into consideration, we cannot but admit 
that the treaty dealt with these important questions in a 
statesmanlike and satisfactory manner. The only criticism 
which I would venture to make is that it does not appear 
to have been recognized that a new power had risen on 


the horizon, and that henceforth Russia alone would be 
likely, or indeed able, to threaten India. It was known 
that in 1791 there had been a scheme for an invasion of 
Hindustan by way of Orenburg, Bokhara, and Kabul. 
Other schemes for Russian conquests in Central Asia had 
also been published. But it was not realized at first that 
Russian aggression on Georgia and Karabagh had in- 
augurated a new and permanent state of affairs. The 
reports of British officers who at the head of Persian 
regiments fought Russian troops, the appointment of a 
permanent mission at Teheran, and the travels and 
writings of the gifted Englishmen of the period all con- 
tributed to furnish that accurate information which is 
essential as a basis of sound policy. 

Fath Ali Shah. 



His Majesty the Shah of Persia, as well in his own name as in that of his 
heirs and successors, cedes in full right and property to the Empire of Russia, 
the Khanate of Erivan on either side of the Araxes, and the Khanate of 
Nakhchivan. — The Treaty of Turkomanchai, Article 3. 

The Annexation of Georgia by Russia^ 1800. — In 
previous chapters we have traced the earlier phases of 
those relations between Russia and Persia which were 
now to prove disastrous for the latter. The death of 
Catjierine and the accession of the Emperor Paul had 
caused the struggle for Georgia to cease for a while, but 
in due course it was renewed. 

Gurgin, or George, who had succeeded his father 
Heraclius, had submitted to Fath Ali Shah, thereby turn- . 
ing his back on Russia. But that power was not to be 
trifled with, and in 1800 George XIII. was compelled to 
renounce his crown in favour of the Tsar. This surrender 
was naturally unpopular among the nobles, and Alexander, * 
the younger brother of George, attempted to enlist the 
support of Turkey or Persia. In this he failed, although ' 
it was obviously to the interest of Persia to defend . 
her rights, instead of tamely allowing Georgia to be\ 
annexed by her rival. A rising supported by the 
Khan of Karabagh and the Avars was defeated by; 
General LazaroiF, who afterwards captured Ganja, which . 
he treated with severity. Georgia was then formally 
annexed to the Russian Empire, which was thereby 
brought into direct contact with Persia. 



The Two Campaigns against Russia, — The campaigns 
which Persia now fought against Russia fall into two 
distinct periods. The first, in which the Persian army 
won some successes, ended with a defeat in 18 12, and 
peace was made in 18 13, by an agreement known as the 
treaty of Gulistan. There was then a lull for thirteen 
years until, in 1826, the claim made by Russia to the 
district of Gokcha brought on a new war. The Persians 
found their enemy unprepared and gained some initial 
successes, but ultimately the Russians penetrated into 
Azerbaijan and captured Tabriz. This campaign, which 
was utterly disastrous to Persia, ended with the treaty of 
Turkomanchai, in 1828. 

The Persian Army under Abbas Mirza, — The command 
of the Persian army was vested in Abbas Mirza^ the heir- 
apparent and Governor-General of Azerbaijan^ who started 
the drilling and organizing of Persian troops on European 
lines. At first Russian instructors were engaged, and in 
order to overcome the prejudices of his countrymen the 
Prince donned a European uniform and went through 
the daily drills himself. A few years later the French 
Military Mission already mentioned appeared on the 
scene, and large bodies of troops were drilled into some- 
thing like an army on the European model, so far as 
parade movements were concerned. Upon the decline of 
French influence, English instructors were substituted. 
This attempt to drill the Persians on European lines, 
praiseworthy as it was, contributed to the ruin of their 
country. Her military strength has always lain in 
mounted tribesmen, who by their mobility could create a 
desert round a regular force, attack numerically inferior 
bodies of mounted troops, and remain out of reach of 
slowly moving infantry. It was such a force as this that 
Nadir Shah led to Delhi after defeating the Turks by 
brilliant charges, and nothing but this could hope to 
baffle a European army. Rawlinson, who at a later 
period was an instructor of Persian troops, wrote : "System 
was entirely wanting, whether in regard to pay, clothing, 
food, carriage, equipage, commissariat, promotion, or 
command. . . . Truly then may it be said that in 


presenting Persia with the boon of a so-called regular 
army, in order to reclaim her from her unlawful loves 
with France, we clothed her in the robe of Nessus." ^ 

The Erivan Campaign^ 1804. — The annexation of 
Georgia by Russia deeply affected the prestige of Persia, 
that country having long been her tributary, but actual 
hostilities between Russia and Persia did not break out 
until General Sisianoff, apparently without a formal declara- 
tion of war, marched on Erivan, which he had reason 
to believe would be handed over to him by its treacherous 
governor. The first battle, fought in the neighbourhood 
of Echmiadzin, the residence of the Armenian patriarch, 
was indecisive. Not long afterwards the Persian camp 
was surprised and the army of the heir-apparent fled. 
After this victory Erivan was besieged, and its governor, 
who had refused to hand over the fortress, opened fresh 
negotiations. Fath Ali Shah himself now appeared in 
the theatre of operations with strong reinforcements. 
Engagements followed with indecisive results, but by 
preventing munitions and supplies from reaching the 
Russian camp, the Shah forced General Sisianoff to retire 
from the siege of Erivan, harassed by the light Persian 

The Russian Descent on Gilan. — The next important 
operation was a Russian descent on Resht. As travellers 
to Teheran know, its seaport is Enzeli, behind which lies 
a shallow lagoon some twelve miles across, navigable only 
by small boats. After this body of water has been 
traversed a narrow river is entered, up which boats are 
towed to Pir-i-Bazar, distant some three or four miles 
from the capital of Gilan. 

The Russian general, unable to transport his guns by 
boats, of which only a small number were forthcoming, 
attempted to march round the lagoon. But the marshy 
nature of the soil and the attacks of the inhabitants were 
obstacles too formidable to be faced, and the order was 
given to retire on Enzeli. The expedition then sailed to 
Baku and bombarded it. The Governor was invited to 

^ In the recent struggles the Persian regular army has played no part whatever. It 
is now being disbanded. 


surrender, but at a conference held under its walls 
General Sisianoff was treacherously assassinated. Mean- 
while Ganja had surrendered to Abbas Mirza^ but was 
retaken by the Russians. The campaign dragged on 
with indecisive results, although the Russians occupied 
the greater part of the disputed territories, but they were 
repulsed a second time with loss from before Erivan. 
The Persians were anxious to engage the services of 
General Malcolm, but this was not permitted. He gave 
them, however, the wise advice to keep their artillery and 
newly raised infantry for the defence of fortresses, and to 
raise swarms of light horsemen to harass and distress the 

The Battle of Aslanduz^ 1812. — In 1812 a decisive 
battle was fought. Sir Gore Ouseley, who was attempting 
to act as mediator, having heard that Great Britain had 
concluded peace with Russia, ordered the British officers 
to leave the Persian service, but so far yielded to Persian 
entreaties as to allow Christie and Lindsay to remain. 
The Persian army was at Aslanduz on the Araxes, and 
there it was surprised in broad daylight by a Russian 
column consisting of only 2300 men with six guns. 
Christie formed up the infantry and was holding his own, 
when Abbas Mirza^ thinking all was lost, directed him to 
retreat ; upon his demurring, the Persian heir-apparent 
himself galloped up, seized the colours of a regiment and 
ordered the men to retire. The artillery was also 
compelled to follow, and but for the action of Lindsay, 
who dashed into the camp and seized some rounds of 
ammunition, would have been useless. Abbas Mirza 
made the disaster complete by giving wildly contradictory 
commands, and as a result his army was annihilated. 
Gallant Christie, wounded in the neck, was killed by the 
enemy. Lenkoran, the next Russian objective, was taken 
at the end of the year. After these two disasters the 
Persians were disheartened and thought of making peace. 

The Treaty of Gulistan^ 18 13. — At the request of the 
Russian Governor-General of Georgia, Sir Gore Ouseley 
used his good offices, and on the 12th of October, 18 13, 
a treaty was signed. Its terms were disastrous to Persia. 


She ceded Georgia, Derbent, Baku, Shirwan, Shaki, 
Genja, Karabagh and part of Talish. She also agreed 
indirectly to maintain no navy on the Caspian Sea.^ 
Russia, in return, apparently bound herself to support 
Abbas Mirza in securing the succession. Thus for his 
personal advantage the heir-apparent conceded to Russia 
the whole of the territories in dispute. That power, 
owing to the invasion of Napoleon, was in no condition 
to continue the campaign, and probably would have 
accepted less — for the time being. Persia, on her side, 
hoped by means of British officers to strengthen her 
position and then to try the fortune of war again. In 
other words, the peace was a temporary and not a final 

Risings in Persia, — Path AH Shah, partly at any rate 
owing to the defeats he had suflrered at the hands of 
Russia, was faced with risings in various parts of the 
empire as well as with raids from outside. The chiefs of 
Khorasan, who had always resented the supremacy of the 
Kajars, rose against his son Mohamed Vali Mirza, They 
obtained possession of Meshed, but then began to quarrel 
and dispersed. As a sequel to this rebellion Ishak Khan, 
the powerful Karai chief, was strangled by the Governor- 
General. In the meanwhile the Amir of Bokhara invaded 
Khorasan at the invitation of the rebels, but, finding that 
the authority of the Shah had been re-established, made 
excuses and retired. The Khan of Khiva also appeared 
on the scene, but his envoy was humiliated by being 
forced to play on a musical instrument before the Persian 
generals. After this deadly insult his army was defeated. 
The Turkoman also revolted twice. On the second 
occasion their leader was a Kajar noble, but they were 
driven oflF and he was captured. 

The Embassy of General Yermeloff^ 1817. — After the 
conclusion of the peace it was vainly hoped that through 
English intercession part of the lost territories would 
be restored. The Tsar sent General YermelofF with a 
splendid embassy to Teheran, but instead of yielding 

1 when this stipulation was discussccl at Teheran, Ha'fi Mirza Aghasi, afterwards 
the Vizier of Mohamed Shah, summed up the situation by exclaiming, " What do we 
want with salt water ! " The agreement is given in Appendix v. o( Aitchison's Treaties. 


up a square foot of the territories ceded to Russia, he 
proposed an alliance against Turkey. Further demands 
were for the passage through Astrabad and Khorasan of 
a Russian army destined to invade Khiva, and for the 
establishment of a Russian agent at Resht. All these 
proposals, together with an offer to supply Russian oiEcers 
to train the Persian army, were politely refused, and the 
Russian envoy, after being magnificently entertained, left 
Teheran loaded with gifts. 

Afghan Campaigns^ 1805 ^^^ 18 17-18 18. — We must 
now return for a short while to Afghanistan. In a.h. 
1222 (1805) the erstwhile refugee Firuz Mirza^ who 
was Governor of Herat, attempted to capture Ghorian, a 
fortress on the frontier which had remained in Persian 
hands. He was defeated and, being followed up to the 
gates of Herat, agreed to pay to Persia arrears of tribute 
for two years and to give his son as a hostage for his good 
faith. Twelve years later, in 1 8 1 7, Hasan Ali Mirza^ a 
son of Fath Ali Shah, marched to Herat to punish a 
further attack on Ghorian. Again Firuz Mirza bought 
off the invaders by a payment of fifty thousand tomans 
and by ordering the public prayers to be read and the 
coinage to be stamped in the name of Fath Ali Shah. 
After the departure of the Persian army he was alarmed 
at the possible consequences of his acts and asked for 
military assistance from Kabul. Mahmud Shah, who had 
been released from prison, and had driven Shah Shuja into 
exile at Ludhiana, was the nominal Amir of Afghanistan, 
but Fatteh Khan Barakzai, his Vizier, was all-powerful, 
and at his instance Firuz Mirza was treacherously seized 
and deported to Kabul. The chiefs of Khorasan were 
then incited to rise against the Shah, and the Khan of 
Khiva was persuaded to invade the province in the 
interests of Afghanistan. 

Hasan Ali Mirza met this critical situation with 
firmness. In 1818 he attacked Fatteh Khan, who was 
defeated and wounded. Shortly afterwards Fath Ali Shah 
reached the theatre of war with a large force and Mahmud 
Shah purchased immunity from invasion by agreeing to 
blind his Vizier, who was afterwards barbarously executed. 


This act led to the downfall of the Durranis ; for Dost 
Mohamed, brother and avenger of the murdered man, 
took up arms and after eight years of anarchy obtained 
possession of the throne of Afghanistan, which his de- 
scendants still occupy. Herat, however, remained faithful 
to Mahmud and after his death to his son Kamran Mirza} 

HosuMes wuh Turkey, A.H,i226-i22S (i^2i-i^'2'3)-— 
The last campaign fought between Persia and Turkey 
originated from the action of the Governor of Erzeroum, 
who took under his protection two nomadic tribes that had 
fled from Azerbaijan. Abbas Mirza made representations, 
but his agent was imprisoned and he was then instructed to 
invade the Turkish dominions. The Turks being weak, 
all the districts adjacent to Azerbaijan, including Kurdistan, 
were occupied. Farther south, the Pasha of Baghdad at- 
tempted to invade Persia, but was defeated by Mohamed 
Ali Mirza^ the Shah's eldest son.^ The routed army was 
pursued to the gates of the city, which lay at the mercy 
of the Prince. But illness caused him to retreat, and upon 
reaching the hills he died. 

Meanwhile hostilities continued in the north. A 
Turkish detachment a thousand strong was captured by 
a force operating from Erivan, but was released without 
ransom by Abbas Mirza^ who throughout showed no 
desire to push matters too far. The campaign ended 
with a battle in which the Persians, although inferior in 
numbers, gained a hard-fought victory. In the southern 
zone all military operations were stopped because the 
Persian army suffered from cholera, which is stated to 
have made its first appearance in Persia on this occasion. 
Peace was concluded in the end by the treaty of Erzeroum, 
signed in a.h. 1238 (1823). Its terms involved no terri- 
torial changes. 

The Dispute about Gokcha and its Seizure by Russia, 
1825. — The treaty of Gulistan had been so vaguely worded 
that three districts lying between Erivan and the Gokcha 

1 Kamran Mirza had a feud with Fatteh Khan and induced his father, whose fears he 
excited, to give the order for his execution, which order he brought in person to Herat 
and executed. 

2 It is stated that Mohamed Ali Mirxa^ when a boy, was asked by Aga Mohamed 
what he would do if he became Shah. " I would kill you," was the reply. This frank 
expression resulted in the appointment of Abbas Mirza, the second son, as heir-apparent. 

Ffotn ii /^''u\'ct:> >ifh »'t' At\i..-' /\. ■.'<{: 



Lake, the most important of which was Gokcha, remained 
in dispute. Negotiations were carried on between General 
Yermeloff, the Governor-General of the Caucasus, and 
Abbas Mirza^ but, no agreement being reached, Gokcha 
was occupied by Russian troops. In consequence of this 
high-handed act, the intense feeling of hostility to Russia 
which had been excited by her conquests and by her con- 
temptuous treatment of her new Moslem subjects broke 
out into a national demonstration in favour of war. Abbas 
Mirza was only too anxious to retrieve his lost reputation, 
and from every province of Persia recruits in thousands 
flocked to his standard. A Russian envoy, Prince 
Menchikoff^, was despatched to the court of Teheran upon 
the accession of Tsar Nicholas, and it was hoped by the 
peace-loving Shah that a satisfactory arrangement would 
be effected ; but the Russian Prince had no instructions 
to surrender Gokcha, and his mission did nothing to 
satisfy Persian public opinion, which was deeply stirred. 

Initial Persian Successes, — The first act of hostility was 
an attack on a Russian force by the hereditary chief of 
Talish, whose wife was in their hands. This was followed 
by an assault on Lenkoran, which was abandoned by its 

In the main theatre of war the Russians were unpre- 
pared, and at first the Persians carried all before them. 
An entire Russian regiment was captured marching towards 
Shisha, and one half of the prisoners entered the service 
of the Shah. The Moslems of Ganja massacred the 
Russian garrison, and the Persians raided up to the gates 
of Tiflis. So successful were they that in less than a 
month Shirwan, Shaki, Talish, and Ganja had all been 
reoccupied by the troops of the Shah. Shisha, however, 
defied all the eflForts of Abbas Mirza. 

The Battle of Shamkar, — Russia meanwhile had been 
concentrating an army at Tiflis, and the first battle was 
fought at Shamkar, in the vicinity of Ganja, by a Russian 
division of nine thousand men against a Persian force of 
equal strength. The Persian cavalry, demoralized by the 
Russian artillery fire, fled and was pursued by Cossacks 
along the rear of the Persian infantry. Seeing this, the 

VOL. II 2 E 


Russian main body advanced, and the Persians were 
routed, leaving their artillery in the hands of the enemy. 
In this battle Mohamed Mirza (afterwards Mohamed 
Shah), who was in command, was actually made prisoner 
by the Cossacks, but was rescued through the courage of 
a Shah Savan chief. 

The Battle of Ganja^ 26th September^ 1826. — Abbas 
Mirza immediately hastened north with thirty thousand 
men to repair the disaster, and was met by General 
Paskievich, with an army only half as strong, on a level 
plain to the east of Ganja. The Persian artillery, directed 
by its English officer, caused a Russian division to retreat 
and two Karadagh regiments charged. Had the entire 
line advanced at this juncture the day might have been 
won ; for the Russian artillery was badly served. Un- 
fortunately for Persia, Abbas Mirza again behaved as he 
had done at Aslanduz, and his sons received orders to 
retire. These instructions discouraged the whole army, 
which broke up before a shot had been fired by many of 
the regiments. Abbas Mirza, who was not a coward, did 
his best to rally his men, but the Asaf-u-Dola, the Vizier, 
quitted the field at the first alarm and reached the Aras, a 
hundred and fifty miles distant, by the following night. 

The Avarice of Fath Ali Shah. — Avarice was the ruling 
passion of Fath Ali Shah, and, like the last of the Caliphs, 
he preferred to hoard jewels and gold rather than to expend 
money on national defence. For this reason the steps 
taken to collect a new army were inadequate. Moreover 
his sons refused to serve under the now discredited Abbas 
Mirza, The arsenal at Tabriz was found to be practically 
empty, the money devoted to it having been embezzled, 
and even such cannon balls as there were did not fit the 
guns. An attempt was made to buy lead locally, but 
very little was obtained. Meanwhile winter came on and, 
owing to the Shah's refusal to furnish pay, the army was 
disbanded. General YermelofF made prompt use of re- 
inforcements which reached him, and after the Astrakhan 
division had driven the Shah*s troops out of Derbent 
another division crossed the Aras and threatened Tabriz, 
which lay at the mercy of a determined enemy. It was. 


however, spared, and the Russian General retired without 
effecting anything of importance. 

The Capture of Erivan^ 1827. — In 1827 General 
Paskievich, who had succeeded to the chief command, 
again besieged Erivan, but for the third time this fortress 
defied the Russians. Shortly afterwards Abbasabad, a 
strong position on the Aras near Nakhchivan, was taken 
by treachery. This blow disheartened the Persians and 
fruitless efforts were made to conclude peace. 

A victory, however, was at last gained by Abbas Mirza 
in the neighbourhood of Echmiadzin over a Russian force 
under General Karkovski, consisting of five thousand 
infantry, one thousand cavalry, and twelve guns. The 
Persians were equal in infantry, but stronger in cavalry 
and artillery. The latter arm was ably served, and the 
Persian troops, anxious to regain their lost reputation, 
charged boldly. The Russian General was killed, and but 
for time lost by the Persians in cutting off the heads of their 
enemies the Russian force would have been annihilated. 
As it was, a large number reached the friendly shelter of 
Echmiadzin. Notwithstanding this victory. Path Ali Shah 
refused to continue the supply of money necessary to keep 
the army in the field, and the Sirdar, deserted by his 
monarch, at last surrendered Erivan to General Paskievich, 
who was granted in consequence the title Count of 

The Surrender of Tabriz^ 1827. — The Shah's avarice 
led to a stiU greater disaster. Learning the defenceless 
state of Tabriz, Paskievich despatched a small force of five 
thousand men, to which the city was surrendered by the 
leading inhabitants without a struggle. By this success 
the Russians gained possession of the arsenal, of almost 
the entire artillery park, and of the families of the leaders. 
There was consequently no use in prolonging the hopeless 
struggle and it was left to the Russians to dictate the terms 
on which peace would be made. 

The Treaty of Turkomanchai^ 1828. — The victors were 
embarrassed by hostilities with Turkey, and their demands, 
although not light, cannot be called exorbitant. The chief 
articles included the cession to Russia of the fertile 


provinces of Erivan and Nakhchivan and the payment of 
an indemnity fixed at ten crores^ of tomans, equivalent 
to thirty million silver roubles, or rather more than 

The new frontier was laid down in detail in Article 4 
of the treaty.^ It followed the River Aras eastward as far 
as the 48 th parallel of longitude. At this point it trended 
to the south, giving part of Talish, including Lankoran, 
to Russia, and then eastward again to the Caspian Sea, 
which it reached at Astara. By the seventh Article Abbas 
Mirza was formally recognized as heir to the throne of 
Persia, and by the tenth Russia acquired the right to 
nominate Consuls or commercial agents "wherever the good 
of commerce may require/' A separate compact dealt with 
the question of '' Commerce and the Security of Subjects." 
By its terms 5 per cent was agreed to for the customs' 
charges on exports and imports ; Russian officials were 
allowed to import goods intended for their personal use 
free of charge and were also allowed to protect their 
Persian employes. Finally, they retained power over their 
own subjects. 

This treaty marked the beginning of a new era, since 
Persia from that time ceased to be the entirely independent 
power that had been courted by France and England. 
France had left the arena, and England was not slow to 
see the changed position. The treaty is scarcely less im- 
portant from another point of view ; for it is the basis on 
which all western nations have since conducted their inter- 
course with Persia, and the extra-territorial privileges it 
introduced for Russians have been extended to other 
Europeans and are in force to this day. The negotiations, 
which began in the month of November 1827, were not 
concluded until the following February, the aged Shah 
having refused to unlock the doors of his treasure-house. 
He was afraid, moreover, that the money might be used 
by General Paskievich to finance a new campaign against 
Persia. Fortunately the British Minister, Sir John 
Macdonald, was able to reassure the Shah on this point, 

^ A Persian crore is half a million. 
2 Fide Aitchhon's Treaties, Appendix XVI. 


and at last the treaty was signed. The royal consent was 
given only just in time, for Paskievich was preparing to 
march on Teheran and had been promised by the disloyal 
chiefs of Azerbaijan the support of fifteen thousand 

The Modification of the Definitive Treaty with Great 
Britain. — The Persian Government held that the occupa- 
tion of the district of Gokcha by Russia was the cause of 
the war and that Great Britain was consequently bound by 
theDefinitiveTreatyof 1 8 14 to cometoher aid. The British 
view, and the just view, was that Persia had waged an 
aggressive war. It was, however, realized that, had Russia 
been the aggressor and had her troops invaded Persian 
territory. Great Britain would have been placed in the 
awkward position of supporting the Shah in a war waged 
against a power with which she herself was on friendly 
terms. Sir John Macdonald, who had come to the rescue 
of Abbas Mirza by advancing him money in his dire need, 
succeeded in negotiating an agreement by which, in return 
for a payment of 200,000 tomans. Articles 3 and 4 
of the treaty were cancelled.^ This sum of money was 
urgently needed by Abbas Mirza^ and upon its receipt 
General Paskievich evacuated Tabriz. The cancelling of 
the two articles by Sir John Macdonald proves that that 
able diplomatist had realized the change in the position of 
Persia referred to above ; a change which had already been 
indicated by the transfer of the direction of affairs at 
Teheran from London to Calcutta. By this deletion of 
treaty provisions that would have been inapplicable to the 
new situation he rendered a signal service to Great Britain, 
while the cash payment was invaluable to her stricken 

The Murder of Grehaiodov^ 1828. — The year in which 
the treaty of Turkomanchai was signed was singularly un- 

^ Aitchison's Treaties^ p. 57. Article 3 of the Definitive Treaty, after declaring its pur- 
pose to be "strictly defensive" and its object that of "repelling the aggression of 
enemies," went on to state that "the limits of the territories of the two States of 
Russia and Persia shall be determined according to the admission of Great Britain, 
Persia and Russia." Article 4 provided that, in case any European nation invaded 
Persia, Great Britain should, if the Persian Government required assistance, send from 
India " the force required," or, in lieu thereof, should pay an annual subsidy of two hundred 
thousand tomans towards the cost of a Persian army. But this subsidy was not to be 
paid if the war was "produced by an aggression on the part of Persia." 

422 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, lxxvi 

fortunate for Persia. By the terms of that instrument the 
third instalment of the indemnity had to be handed over 
to the Russian representative on the 27th of August, 
failing which, that power had the right to annex Azerbaijan. 
With characteristic Persian levity, no arrangements were 
made for the payment of this money, and but for the 
friendly vigilance of the British Envoy it would not have 
been forthcoming. 

In the autumn a special mission under M. Grebaiodov 
reached Teheran from the Tsar. It was received with 
much distinction and honour, but the Envoy^s claim that 
two Armenian women should be given up by the Asaf-u- 
Dola created much ill-feeling. The women were sur- 
rendered, but the decision of the chief Mujtahid that it 
was lawful to rescue them from the hands of the infidels 
caused a riot. The bazaars were shut, a mob stormed the 
Legation, and the Envoy and his staff were murdered. 
The Shah, in utter dismay, despatched his grandson 
Khusru Mirza to oflFer the apologies of the Persian 
Government and to express horror at the outrage. Russia 
was engaged at the time in hostilities with Turkey and 
was unwilling to drive Persia by any act of harshness to 
side with that power. Consequently, not only were the 
demands of Russia limited to the exile of the chief 
Mujtahid and the punishment of the guilty individuals, 
but in addition Tsar Nicholas generously remitted a crore 
of tomans of the war indemnity. 

MoHAMED Shah. 



We consent to the whole of the demands of the British Government. We 
will not go to war. Were it not for the sake of friendship we should not 
relinquish the siege of Herat. — The Statement of Mohamed Shah. 

The Trend of Persian Policy^ 1 832-1 857. — The last chap- 
ter was a recital of defeats and losses suffered by Persia at 
the hand of Russia. The present chapter and the follow- 
ing one are mainly an account of the persistent though 
unsuccessful efforts made by the defeated power to recover 
provinces on the eastern confines of the empire in order 
to balance heavy losses in the west. These campaigns 
against Afghanistan were viewed with apprehension by 
rulers of India, since it was realized that, if the policy of 
Persia were successful, Russian agents and Russian influ- 
ence would be established to the south of the Hindu Kush. 
The Government of India, therefore, made strenuous 
efforts to keep Afghanistan outside the spheres of in- 
fluence of both Russia and Persia, not shrinking from 
an Afghan campaign, from costly missions, or even from 
war with her old ally Persia. During the period dealt 
with, from 1832 to 1857, the main Persian objective was 
Herat, which was besieged more than once and for a short 
period actually occupied. 

The Campaign of Abbas Mirza in Khorasan. — The 
disasters suffered in the campaign with Russia reacted 
on the internal situation of Persia, more especially in 
Khorasan, where the Kajar dynasty was peculiarly detested. 
Abbas Mirza was entrusted with the task of restoring 



order and defending Persian rights, and the energy and 
skill with which he conducted his last campaign must be 
set against his previous failures. He marched first to 
Yezd, which had rebelled, and then to Kerman, and in 
both provinces succeeded in reviving public confidence. 
In Khorasan, Khusru Mirza opened the campaign by the 
siege of Turshiz. The fall of this fortress caused many 
of the leading chiefs to submit, but the Ilkhani of Kuchan 
refused to come to terms. Amirabad, a Kurdish strong- 
hold near Chinaran, was taken, and Abbas Mirza had the 
utmost difficulty in stopping the massacre of its inhabi- 
tants. Kuchan was next besieged, and the rebel Ilkhani 
in the end submitted and was deposed in favour of his 

Sarakhs was the next Persian objective. The Khan 
of Khiva had advanced to its neighbourhood, but retreated 
upon hearing of the success of the Persian arms and so 
deserted the Salor Turkoman of Sarakhs. This historical 
city, which owed its importance to its position at a ford 
of the Tejen on the great road between Nishapur and 
Merv, had become a notorious centre of the slave trade, 
and it was known that there were three thousand Shia 
captives within its walls. Abbas Mirza^ after futile 
negotiations, allowed an hour for the unconditional 
surrender of the fortress, and when the time had elapsed 
assaulted and captured it. The Turkoman were massacred, 
the slaves were released, and enormous booty was 

This blow dealt to the Turkoman resounded through- 
out Central Asia. The Khan of Khiva was permitted to 
ransom five thousand Salor prisoners at ten tomans a head, 
but Abbas Mirza stipulated that the Salors should escort, 
and be responsible for, the safety of Persian caravans ; 
that they should agree to have no dealings with slave- 
dealers ; and, finally, that they should pay tribute and 
furnish a contingent of horsemen when required. 

Anglo - Russian Antagonism in Central Asia. — The 
campaign against Herat in which Persia now engaged 
was the ultimate cause of the first Afghan war, and it 
may therefore be well, before describing the operations, 


to give some account of the general position in Central 
Asia. There is no doubt that both Russia and Great 
Britain at this period were animated — in Asia, at any rate 
— by feelings of mutual hostility ; the interests of the 
two empires were conceived to be antagonistic, although 
Russia had not annexed Khiva and the frontier of 
British India was the Sutlej. 

Russian victories over Persia had incited the defeated 
power to recover her prestige elsewhere, and this very 
natural desire was encouraged by her former enemy. It 
was realized on the banks of the Neva that if Persia 
obtained possession of Herat she would probably take 
Kabul and Kandahar also. In this case Russian influence 
would penetrate Afghanistan without any effort on her 
part, whereas a heavy strain would be thrown on Great 
Britain to meet the demands of the new situation. If, 
on the other hand. Great Britain intervened to save 
Herat, she would be thwarting the natural and just 
ambitions of Persia and would thereby drive her to lean 
entirely on Russia. It must not be supposed that Abbas 
Mirza intended to affront Great Britain by an invasion 
of Afghanistan. To him it seemed only right that ancient 
provinces of Persia should be won back, and it is im- 
possible not to sympathize with his aspirations. 

The Siege of Herat and the Death of Abbas Mirza^ i S33. 
— Herat was at this period held as an independent princi- 
pality by Kamran Mirza^ son of Mahmud Shah. His 
Vizier, the astute Yar Mohamed Khan, proceeded on a 
mission to the Persian heir-apparent, and was informed 
by him that unless his master acknowledged the authority 
or the Shah and paid tribute Herat would be besieged. 
Kamran Mirza sent back an evasive reply and it was 
thereupon decided to undertake an Afghan campaign. 

Abbas Mirza was summoned to Court, and the 
military command was given to Mohamed Mirza^ who 
advanced on Ghorian. Unable to capture that strong- 
hold, he left it in his rear and invested Herat. Aided 
by a Polish officer named Berovski, the young Prince 
was pressing forward the siege when news was received 
of the death of Abbas Mirza, whose premature decease 


was a heavy blow to Persia. A treaty was hastily con- 
eluded, by the terms of which Kamran Mirza agreed to 
pay tribute to the Shah and to raze the fortifications of 
Ghorian ; and Mohamed Mirza hastened to Teheran, 
where he was proclaimed heir -apparent. But before 
quitting Afghan soil he swore a solemn oath that he 
would return and avenge his failure in Afghan blood. 

The Death of Fath All Shah, 1834. — In the following 
year Fath Ali Shah died at the age of sixty-eight, after 
a reign of thirty-seven years. Apart from his avarice, 
which, as we have seen, brought disaster upon Persia in 
her struggle with Russia, he was looked upon as a capable 
ruler, and in some ways he recalls Solomon in his later 
years. He certainly was no soldier, and by Persians he 
is remembered chiefly for his enormous family and his 
long beard. Many are the stories I have heard from 
Persian friends about this monarch, and one or two of 
them may be reproduced. 

Of his personal beauty he was inordinately proud, and 
it is said that, having a mole under his chin where it could 
not be seen, he insisted on having it reproduced by the 
Court painter on his cheek. Another story is to the 
effect that when news was received of the crossing ot 
the Persian frontier by the Russians, the nobles and 
officials waited with interest to see what action would be 
taken. The Shah appeared, robed in the " robes of 
wrath,'* which were all of red, including a crown studded 
with rubies, and with a huge ruby in his dagger hilt. 
The nobles expected him to deliver sentence of death, 
as was customary when these robes were worn, and 
listened to his utterances with awe. His Majesty pro- 
tested that the " ill-omened " Russians had violated the 
sacred soil of Persia, and enquired, " If we send the house- 
hold cavalry to attack them what then } " The reply was, 
" May we be thy sacrifice ! They would drive them back 
to Moscow." " And if we ourselves went ? '' The nobles 
gave no reply, but grovelled on the ground and wept at 
the thought of the woes that the Russians would suffer ! 
Incredible as it may appear, there is no doubt that Fath 
Ali Shah hoped the Russians would learn that the Shah 


had been seated on his throne wearing the " robes of 
wrath/' and that they would be struck with terror and 
retire. But, unfortunately for the Shah, the Russians 
are a brave and not an imaginative people. 

An interesting description of the appearance of Fath 
Ali Shah is given by Sir Robert Ker Porter,^ who travelled 
through Persia in 1 8 1 8-20. 

He was one blaze of jewels, which literally dazzled the sight 
on first looking* at him ; but the details of his dress were these : 
A lofty tiara of three elevations was on his head, which shape 
appears to have been long peculiar to the crown of the great king. 
It was entirely composed of thickly-set diamonds, pearls, rubies, 
and emeralds, so exquisitely disposed as to form a mixture of the 
most beautiful colours in the brilliant light reflected from its sur- 
face. Several black feathers, like the heron plume, were intermixed 
with the resplendent aigrettes of this truly imperial diadem, whose 
bending points were finished with pear-formed pearls of an im- 
mense size. The vesture was gold tissue, nearly covered with a 
similar disposition of jewelry ; and crossing the shoulders were 
two strings [of pearls, probably the largest in the world. I call 
his dress a vesture, because it set close to his person, from the 
neck to the bottom of the waist, showing a shape as noble as 
his air. 

At that point, it developed downwards in loose drapery, like 
the usual Persian garment, and was of the same costly materials 
with the vest. But for splendour, nothing could exceed the 
broad bracelet round his arms and the belt which encircled his 
waist ; they actually blazed like fire when the rays of the sun 
met them. 

The Accession of Mohamed Shah^ 1834. — The death of 
Fath Ali Shah unchained fierce rivalries, and it was seen 
that two of his sons, the Farman Farma and the Zil-u- 
Sultan^ Governors of Fars and Teheran respectively, were 
prepared to bid for the throne. Fortunately for the 
rightful heir, the British Envoy, Sir John Campbell, was 
at Tabriz, and by his assistance, both moral and material, 
and that of the Russian representative, the new Shah was 
able to march on Teheran at the head of a considerable 
force commanded by Sir Henry Lindsay Bethune. The 
circumstance that he was accompanied by the Ministers 
of Great Britain and Russia caused the desertion of the 

1 Travels in Georgia^ Persia, etc., vol. i. pp. 325-26 (London, 1 821). 


Zil-u-Sultans adherents, and the Pretender hastened 
to submit and was present at the coronation of his 
nephew. The Farman Farma was a more dangerous 
rival, and the EngUsh General was soon marching south 
to attack him ; Isfahan was reached by a forced march 
and shortly afterwards the rebel army was encountered 
near Kumishah. I have visited the site of the battle, 
which was decided by artillery fire, against which the 
nomad horsemen would not stand. The Farman Farma 
fled, but was captured, and died on the way to prison at 

Meanwhile Khorasan had revolted, but its turbulent 
chiefs submitted. In Laristan and Arabistan also there 
were outbreaks, but these troubles were put down, partly 
at any rate thanks to Rawlinson, who had recently 
arrived in Persia. 

The Second British Military Mission, — In 1832-33 
Indian interest in Persia was so far aroused that a quantity 
of arms, ammunition, and accoutrements was presented 
to the Shah. This handsome gift was followed in 1834 
by an important Military Mission, in which all arms of 
the service were represented. Among the officers who 
were to win distinction were Rawlinson, Stoddart, Sheil, 
and D'Arcy Todd. From the start the English officers 
were treated with jealousy and hostility by the Persians ; 
they had no control over the pay or promotion of the 
Persian corps, and the young Shah did not support them. 
In 1836 the members of the English Mission at the 
royal camp were dismissed with insult ; and in 1838, 
when Sir John McNeill hauled down his flag and broke 
ofi^ relations with Persia, all the British officers left with 

Haji Mirza Aghasi. — Upon his accession Mohamed 
Shah brought from Tabriz his Minister, known as the 
Kaim Makam^ or Deputy Governor. This personage 
had established an extraordinary ascendancy over his 
master, but as he insisted on directing every branch of 
the administration himself even the rough machinery 
of the Persian Government came to a standstill. When 
the position was realized by Mohamed Shah the un- 


fortunate minister was strangled. He was succeeded by 
Haji Mirza Aghasi, who had been tutor to the Shah and 
who was both ignorant and fanatical, his attitude towards 
all foreigners being one of profound suspicion. 

The Afghan Policy of Mohamed Shah, — The death of 
Fath Ali Shah, who had been friendly to Great Britain, 
and the accession of Mohamed Shah, who was almost 
entirely under Russian influence, was disadvantageous 
to British policy, as was speedily proved. 

No sooner was the new Shah firmly established on 
the throne than he organized a large force for a second 
Afghan campaign. Kamran Mirza had failed to pay 
tribute, had not destroyed the fortifications of Ghorian, 
and had added to his oiFences by the execution of some 
Persians. Beyond the question of Herat lay that of 
Sistan, which Persia coveted and claimed as one of her 
provinces, and its annexation at this period by Kamran 
Mirza was an additional aifront. The British position 
was diplomatically very weak, as it had been agreed 
in the Definitive Treaty that Great Britain should not 
interfere in case of war between Persia and Afghanistan. 
Nevertheless, since the extension of Persian sovereignty 
would involve the posting of Russian agents nearer India, 
the British Envoy used all his influence to suspend the 

The Rise of Dost Mohamed, — After the final expulsion 
of Mahmud from Kabul, Mohamed Azim, a brother of 
Fatteh Khan, governed as the Vizier of a puppet Sadozai 
prince ; but after his death his brother. Dost Mohamed, 
the son of a Kizilbash woman of low origin, gradually 
proved himself the strongest member of the family. As 
is almost invariably the case in Afghanistan, his brothers 
were his most bitter enemies, especially Sultan Mohamed, 
who, after failing to seize Kabul, held Peshawar as a 
province of the Sikh kingdom. In spite of many 
vicissitudes of fortune. Dost Mohamed had by the year 
1826 obtained undisputed possession of Kabul, and 
during the next eight years he ruled in comparative peace, 
of which he took the fullest advantage not only for 
strengthening his position but also for improving his 


own scanty education. In 1834 Shah Shuja, after 
obtaining an advance of his pension from the Govern- 
ment of India, made a desperate attempt to recover the 
throne. He defeated Kuhandil Khan, brother of Dost 
Mohamed, and besieged Kandahar, but was repulsed in 
the end by a force from Kabul, led by Dost Mohamed in 

The Burnes Mission. — In 1836 Lord Auckland, the 
Governor -General, despatched Alexander Burnes on a 
''commercial" mission to Kabul, where he was well re- 
ceived by Dost Mohamed, whom he had visited as a 
traveller four years previously. The wish of the Amir 
was to reunite to his kingdom Peshawar on the east 
and Herat on the west, and he hoped that by means of 
a British alliance he would be able to obtain one, if not 
both, of his objects. Shortly after the arrival of Burnes, 
Captain Vitkavich, a Russian " commercial " agent, reached 
Kabul. He had travelled from Persia via Kandahar, and 
at that city had induced Kuhandil Khan, who was dis- 
loyal to his brother, to promise to co-operate with the 
Persians against Herat. 

Dost Mohamed paid little attention to the Russian, 
and offered to send a force to the assistance of Yar 
Mohamed Khan, the Vizier of Kamran Mirza and the 
virtual ruler of Herat. In return he stipulated for a 
subsidy with which to maintain the troops, and for his re- 
cognition by the Government of India as Amir of Kabul. 
Burnes, who was favourably impressed by the Afghan 
prince, realized that it would be sound policy to strengthen 
his hands, and in consequence strongly supported his 
demands for a subsidy and for recognition. With regard 
to Peshawar he recommended that an arrangement should 
be made with Ranjit Singh, by which Dost Mohamed 
should hold the city and pay tribute for it to Lahore, 
as^ his brother had done. These reasonable terms were 
rejected by Lord Auckland, who demanded the dismissal 
of Vitkavich and the renouncement by Dost Mohamed 
of all claims to the provinces conquered by Ranjit Singh. 
Throughout the Governor-General entirely failed to realize 
the situation, and he censured Burnes for promising his 


support to Kuhandil Khan in case of Persian aggression. 
Even in the matter of presents, which are esteemed by- 
oriental potentates not merely for their value but as adding 
to the dignity of the recipient in the eyes of his Court, 
the Mission was furnished scantily and compared most un- 
favourably with that of Elphinstone, which had bestowed 
splendid gifts on Shah Shuja. Consequently, through no 
fault of his own, Burnes failed. Kaye jusdy denounces 
the dishonest mutilation of despatches by which Burnes is 
made to appear responsible for the failure of the mission. 
In a recent novel, too, written to bring out the great 
achievement of Eldred Pottinger, Burnes is most unfairly 
made to serve as a dark background to the hero. As Kaye 
puts it, " Had Burnes been left to obey the dictates of 
his own reason and to use the light of his own experience, 
he would have conciliated both the Candahar Sirdars 
and the Caubul Ameer, and raised up an effective bulwark 
in Afghanistan against Persian invasion and Russian 
intrigue." -^ It remains to add that Sir John McNeill's 
views on the question were practically identical. 

The Promises of Vitkavich. — Dost Mohamed, realizing 
that the British Government was unwilling to make 
reasonable proposals to him, now turned to Vitkavich, 
who promised Russian support and agreed, among other 
things, that Russian assistance should be given to the 
Shah in his campaign against Herat. His mission, 
however, like that of Burnes, was a failure, and in the 
end he was disowned by the Russian Government and 
disappeared from the scene.^ Not content to rely 
on vague Russian support. Dost Mohamed ultimately 
strengthened his hands by making a treaty with Mohamed 
Shah against Kamran Mirza ; ^ thus through British 
ineptitude he was forced into taking a step most dis- 
advantageous to British policy. 

The Second Siege of Herat^ i^'i^-i^'i'^, — In 1836 the 
Shah wasted the whole season in ineffectual operations 

1 op, cit. i. 311. 

2 He committed suicide. For the facts about Vitkavich -vide England and Russia 
in the East, p. 152. 

^ In Travels and Journals freser'ved in the Bombay Secretariat^ there is a delightful 
account of the Afghan embassy to Mohamed Shah, written by the ambassador, who was 
of Persian origin. 


against the elusive Turkoman. In 1837, however, he 
mustered his army at Shahrud and marched through 
Khorasan into the Herat province. Forewarned of the 
impending storm, Yar Mohamed Khan had collected a large 
proportion of the crops into the city and had destroyed 
the remainder. He also burned every village situated 
within twelve miles of Herat. Ten thousand horsemen 
were instructed to keep the field and harass the enemjr, 
and the various strongholds in the province were 
garrisoned. The ramparts were repaired and the ditch 
was cleaned out and deepened. But the greatest asset of 
all was a young English artillery officer, Eldred Pottinger, 
who, arriving in disguise, revealed his identity and soon 
became the life and soul of the defence, and saved the 
city from its assailants. Incidentally Pottinger raised 
the prestige of Great Britain in Central Asia, and the 
Khan of Khiva informed Major Abbot, whom we shall 
meet later on, that the gallantry of that officer was his 
first introduction to the British, of whom he had never 
previously heard. 

The Persian army arrived before Herat in November 
and operations began almost immediately. Foraging parties 
committed every possible atrocity, and the Shah, to show 
the spirit in which he was waging war, ordered the first 
prisoner to be bayoneted in his presence. About a 
month after the commencement of the siege one of the 
bastions was taken, but it was soon retaken, and during 
the winter operations dragged on month after month 
with no decisive results, the Persian generals working 
entirely independently of one another and each being 
rather pleased if a rival general was defeated. 

In the spring of 1838 Mr. (afterwards Sir John) 
McNeill, the British Minister, arrived in the Persian 
camp and attempted to persuade the disheartened Shah to 
break off the siege. At the monarches request he entered 
Herat and drew up an agreement with Yar Mohamed Khan 
on behalf of Mohamed Shah. Unfortunately Count 
Simonich, the Russian Envoy, arrived at this juncture 
and offered the services of a Russian officer. The Shah, 
like a true son of Iran, hoped everything from the new- 



•I » 








^ x 
















1— « 





1— ■ 


■4— f 





-^ o 


comer and for a fortnight would not hear of ratifying the 
agreement made by the British Minister. As, however, 
Herat did not faU he began to think of it again ; though, 
still hoping for success, he could not make up his mind 
to face the loss of prestige which failure would involve. 
The smallest advantage would buoy him up and a promise 
of aid from Kandahar made him decide to continue the 
siege. At the same time he slighted the British Envoy 
and refused redress when one of his couriers was seized, 
being under the impression that Great Britain valued the 
friendship of Persia so highly that she would stand even 
affronts to her representative. 

Matters were in this unsatisfactory state when the 
Shah, at a private audience, agreed to fulfil the terms of 
the agreement if the Minister would assure him officially 
in writing that he would incur the anger of tjie British 
Government if the siege were continued. The object of 
this, it was explained, was to prove to all that the Shah 
was raising the siege in order to avoid offending Great 
Britain. The fickle monarch next attempted to extort a 
large pecuniary payment for complying with the wishes 
of Great Britain, and in view of the lavishness which had 
marked previous missions he had good reason to expect 
some pecuniary aid. This, however, was refused, and so 
he turned the tables on the Minister by sending him a 
despatch in which the terms of his communication were 
treated as an attack upon the sovereign independent 
rights of the King of Kings. This document and the 
hostile spirit of the Persian Court induced the British 
Envoy to quit the royal camp. At Shahrud he received 
instructions from England to express to the Shah the 
strongest disapproval of Her Majesty's Government at 
his conduct in connexion with Herat and to state that 
Great Britain would regard the occupation of that city as 
a hostile act. Finally he was to point out that the island 
of Kharak had been occupied by British troops. 

Shortly after the departure of the British Envoy a 
final effort was made by the Persian army. For six days 
the defences were battered and a general assault planned 
by General Simonich was delivered. Thrice the breach 

VOL. II 2 F 


was captured, but the Afghan swordsmen drove the 
besiegers back and nearly two thousand of them were 
killed or wounded. Perovski, the Pole, was killed, and 
Samson, who led the battalion of Russian deserters, was 


The Shah was utterly dejected, though, like a Persian, 
he derived much consolation from the fact that the plan of 
attack which failed had been drawn up by a Russian ; 
rumour, too, had magnified the scope of the British opera- 
tions in the Persian Gulf He was consequently ready to 
listen to Colonel Stoddart,^who was sent to him by McNeill, 
and, after hearing Stoddart's message, replied in the words 
which form a heading to this chapter. Rumours of the 
expedition to reinstate Shah Shuja on the throne assisted 
the triumph of British policy. Simonich lost all influence, 
and the Shah finally left Herat without coming to any 
agreement with its ruler. Thus ended the celebrated 

The First Afghan War^ 1 838-1 842. — The siege of 
Herat, which to all appearances was bound to fall into 
the hands of Persia and to be followed by the capture or 
submission of Kandahar, if not of Kabul, reacted most un- 
favourably on the political situation in India. Rumours 
of a Moslem invasion filled the bazaars, public securities 
declined in value, and the speedy end of British rule was 
foretold. Under these adverse conditions Lord Auckland 
and his advisers decided to make a counter-stroke, and, 
as they were hostile to Dost Mahomed, Shah Shuja ^ was 
the chosen instrument of their policy. In the first 
instance it was proposed to induce Ranjit Singh to co- 
operate with Shah Shuja by advancing through the Khyber 
Pass on Kabul, while Shah Shuja himself marched on the 
capital by Kandahar at the head of an army recruited by 
himself This project was duly agreed to by both the 
principals, but it was then pointed out to Lord Auckland 
that without a British force it would almost certainly 
miscarry. As Kaye puts it, since Mohamed Shah was 

1 Stoddart was afterwards sent by Sir John M'Neill to Bokhara, with instructions to 
make a treaty and obtain the release of Russian prisoners. Owing, perhaps, to the 
intrigues of Yar Mohamed, he was first imprisoned and then murdered by the Amir, 

2 His full title was Shuja-ul-Mulk, or " The Valour of the Country." 


besieging Herat, it was decided that Great Britain should 
herself make war upon Dost Mohamed, and this was the 
origin of the First Afghan War, which has been justly- 
censured more than any other waged by Great Britain 
in Asia. 

The plan finally adopted was to march to Herat and 
raise the siege, to drive Dost Mohamed from Kabul and 
to put Shah Shuja in his place. The policy of driving 
Persia from Herat was sound, but from a military point 
of view the expedition, as originally planned, was almost 
beyond the resources of the British army in India. The 
centre where the army assembled was Karnal, and the 
distance from this frontier cantonment to Kandahar was 
eleven hundred miles. From Kandahar to Herat was 
four hundred more. The British force, only twenty 
thousand strong and encumbered with thausands of 
followers, would therefore have had to march the 
enormous distance of fifteen hundred miles through a 
poor, dry, and possibly hostile country and ^then meet an 
enemy not perhaps very formidable in himself, but 
possibly strengthened by Russian officers and money, if 
not by Russian regiments. When the losses through 
hardships, the posting of garrisons at strategical points, and 
the probability of attacks by the Afghans are all considered, 
this expedition, it must be confessed, was difficult to carry 
out from the military point of view, and might well have 
ended in disaster. Fortunately, before it started news 
reached India that Mohamed Shah had been baffled before 
Herat and had marched back to Persia. It might have 
been thought that with the removal of this really serious 
menace the necessity for engaging a British army in 
Afghanistan had passed away. 

It was, however, decided that Dost Mohamed, repre- 
senting the Barakzai dynasty, must be driven out of 
Afghanistan and Shah Shuja, of the Sadozai family, set 
up in his place, on the alleged ground that Dost 
Mohamed's hostility threatened the peace of India, and 
this in the absence of any extreme necessity and without 
consulting the Afghans themselves. As long as Mohamed 
Shah was besieging Herat there were strong reasons for 


an expedition, but after his failure there were none^ of 
sufficient weight, not to speak of the injustice of invading 
Afghanistan with the avowed intention of substituting an 
inefficient ruler for one of exceptional capacity. 

Even with the reduced force which it was now deter- 
mined to employ, the question of supplies, expressed in 
terms of transport, dominated the military situation 
throughout, and the losses both in men and camels in the 
Bolan Pass were very heavy. Kandahar was fortunately 
undefended, and the army was able to rest in a relatively 
fertile centre. There was, indeed, no resistance until 
Ghazni was reached. Sir Henry Durand (then a 
lieutenant in the Bengal Engineers) gallantly blew up the 
Kabul Gate of this city, which alone had not been bricked 
up, the garrison fled panic-stricken, and the army, which 
was once again on short rations, mainly owing to difficulties 
of transport, obtained supplies in abundance. This feat 
of arms, which amazed the Afghans, who deemed Ghazni 
impregnable, secured a triumphal entry into Kabul in 
August, 1839, ^^^ 'Dost Mohamed subsequently sur- 

Two years later there was a reaction, led by Akbar 
Khan, son of Dost Mohamed. The brigade which had 
been left to garrison Kabul was badly led, and was finally 
induced to evacuate its cantonment in midwinter, with the 
result that four thousand fighting men and twelve thousand 
followers were cut to pieces while retiring on Jalalabad. 

In the spring of 1842 Pollock forced the Khyber and 
relieved Jalalabad, but it was not until September that 
Lord Ellenborough, who had succeeded Lord Auckland 
as Governor-General, permitted Pollock from Jalalabad 
and Nott from Kandahar to converge on Kabul, v/hich, 
after some fighting, was occupied by both generals. 
Meanwhile Shah Shuja had been assassinated, and ultimately 
Dost Mohamed, whose feelings towards Great Britain 
must have been particularly bitter, was permitted to 
return and the British army evacuated Afghanistan. 
Thus concluded an enterprise which was unjust, inex- 
pedient, and badly led. Its main object was to expel 
Dost Mohamed, who was ultimately released and restored 


to power by Great Britain. At the same time it is easy to 
exaggerate the military importance of the destruction of a 
brigade. The loss was avenged, and would in consequence 
soon be forgotten. Upon the whole, when we consider 
the enormous distances, the lack of supplies and water, 
and the bad communications. Great Britain would appear 
to have been fortunate in suffering only one disaster. 

The British Mission to Herat^ 1839- 1 841. — Yar 
Mohamed Khan ^ was the first to congratulate Shah Shuja 
upon his restoration to the throne, and it was decided to send 
a mission from India to Herat and to make a treaty with its 
ruler. Major D'Arcy Todd, who had been with McNeill 
at the siege, was selected for the task, and the mission was 
" received with every mark of respect by the Monarch and 
his Minister.'* A treaty was concluded, by the terms of 
which the Government of India paid a monthly subsidy of 
twenty-five thousand rupees, in return for which it was 
stipulated that all intercourse with Persia should be carried 
on through the British. As might have been expected, 
however, the Vizier was unable to refrain from intriguing, 
and before very long Todd received from the Legation at 
Teheran the copy of a letter Yar Mohamed had addressed 
to Mohamed Shah, in which he stated that his hopes 
rested on the " Asylum of the Universe " and that the 
English were tolerated merely from motives of ex- 

This was condoned, but after a residence of eighteen 
months Todd discovered that a mission had been sent by 
Yar Mohamed to Meshed. He thereupon stopped pay- 
ment of the subsidy and, a breach ensuing, the British 
representative, realizing that the Vizier was bitterly hostile, 
withdrew from Herat. 

The Settlement with Persia, — We must now return to 
Persia. Mohamed Shah, as we have seen, when forced to 
abandon the siege of Herat, had hastily agreed to fulfil all 
the demands of the British Government, but he was most 
unwilling to evacuate Ghorian, Farrah, and Afghan 
Sabzawar. He was likewise unwilling to apologize to the 

^ In Caravan Journeys^ by J. P. Ferrier, a good account is given of this consummate 


British Minister for the assault upon his courier ; in short, 
he was thoroughly out of temper at having failed before 

Meanwhile he had despatched a certain Husayn Khan 
to England with a view to obtaining McNeill's recall. 
The envoy was armed with a portentous document in 
which the Shah protested that the sole object of his expedi- 
tion had been to rescue Persian subjects from slavery, and 
complained bitterly of the oppression to which he had been 
subjected by the British Minister. Unfortunately for the 
Persian representative. Lord Palmerston was Foreign 
Minister, and at Vienna he received an intimation that he 
would not be recognized as a diplomatic agent, and that 
in the demand for the recall of the British Minister Her 
Majesty's Government only saw an additional proof that 
Sir John McNeill had faithfully and ably performed his 
duty. With extreme difficulty the Persian Envoy 
obtained an interview with Palmerston. That statesman 
finally consented to formulate the demands of the British 
Government, which were nine in number, and included 
the evacuation of Ghorian and other Afghan strongholds 
and a written apology for the ill-treatment of the courier. 
Lastly it was stipulated that the signature of a commercial 
treaty must accompany the re-establishment of diplomatic 
relations. The unsuccessful envoy upon his return " ate 
many sticks," in other words was severely bastinadoed. 

The Rebellion of Aga Khan^ 1 840- 1 84 1 . — The vitality of 
religious sects is remarkable, and Mohamed Shah received 
an unpleasant reminder of the fact in the rebellion of Aga 
Khan Mahallati. Descended from the Ismailis who 
played such a large part on the stage of Persia until 
Hulagu crushed the noxious sect, as detailed in Chapter 
LVL, Aga Khan,^ who was a Persian nobleman and land- 
owner, rose in 1840 and defeated the Governor of Yezd 
on the borders of the Kerman province. After some 
further successes he was driven away from Kerman and 
seized the fort at Bam. Finally he fled to India, where he 
assisted the British in Sind and settled down in Bombay. 
In 1844-45 ^^s brother Abul Hasan, known as the Sirdar^ 

^ Vide Ten Thomand Miles^ etc., pp. 68-70 and p. 105. 


invaded Persian Baluchistan, but in the end was expelled. 
The present representative of the family is one of the 
leading and most enlightened Moslems in India, where his 
followers are termed Khojas. 

Perso-Turkish Relations^ 1 842-1 843. — Since the close 
of hostilities between Persia and Turkey there had been 
many causes of mutual complaint, as was only to be ex- 
pected with an ill-defined frontier inhabited on both sides 
by wild and turbulent tribesmen. 

In 1842 the Kurdish Vali of Ardelan collected his 
horsemen to support a dismissed Pasha of Sulaymania, 
whose case the Persian Government had taken up with 
slight success, and to meet this force Turkish troops 
assembled on their side of the frontier. A Kurdish 
detachment was sent to occupy a defile in rear of the 
Turkish position, but the manoeuvre was rendered un- 
availing by the defeat of the Vali of Ardelan. The matter 
was misrepresented at Teheran ; the Shah gave orders for 
an army to be assembled, and an outbreak of hostilities 
appeared to be imminent. Great Britain and Russia, 
however, used their good ofllices, and war was averted. 
Subsequently a commission was formed for delimiting 
the frontier, and the peace was not broken. In the 
following year religious opinion in Persia was outraged by 
an attack on Kerbela and a massacre of its inhabitants. 
Although this city is on Turkish soil, the cry for war was 
universal and extensive military preparations were made ; 
but the Turkish Government expressed regret and 
promised compensation, and hostilities were again avoided. 

The Death of Mohamed Shah^ 1848. — Mohamed Shah 
from boyhood had been a martyr to gout, and when he 
reached his fortieth year he was attacked by a complica- 
tion of maladies to which he succumbed. His differences 
with Great Britain and his failure before Herat, combined 
with ill-health, had soured his character, which was 
certainly bigoted and cruel ; but according to his lights he 
was not a bad Shah. The state of Persia, however, was 
not satisfactory ; for Haji Mirza Aghasi, who had been its 
virtual ruler for thirteen years, " was utterly ignorant of 
statesmanship or of military science, yet too vain to receive 

440 HISTORY OF PERSIA chap, lxxvh 

instruction and too jealous to admit of a coadjutor ; brutal 
in his language ; insolent in his demeanour ; indolent in 
his habits ; he brought the exchequer to the verge of 
bankruptcy and the country to the brink of revolution. 
The pay of the army was generally from three to five 
years in arrears. The cavalry of the tribes was almost 
annihilated." Such — to adopt the weighty words of 
Rawlinson — was the condition of Persia in the middle of 
the nineteenth century. 

MoHAMED Shah. 



His Majesty the Shah of Persia agrees to relingulsh all claims to sovereignty 
over the territory and city of Herat and the countries of Afghanistan, and 
never to demand from the chiefs of Herat, or of the countries of Afghanistan, 
any marks of obedience, such as the coinage or " Khutba," or tybute. 

His Majesty further engages to abstain hereafter from all interference w^ith 
the internal affairs of Afghanistan. His Majesty promises to recognize the 
independence of Herat and of the whole of Afghanistan, and never to attempt 
to interfere with the independence of those States. 

In case of differences arising between the Government of Persia and the 
countries of Herat and Afghanistan the Persian Government engages to refer 
them for adjustment to the friendly offices of the British Government, and not 
to take up arms unless those friendly offices fail of effect. 

The Treaty of Paris, Art. 6. 

The Accession of Nasir-u-Dm^ 1848. — After the death 
of Mohamed Shah there was no opposition to the accession 
of the Heir- Apparent, whose age was sixteen. Disorders, 
however, broke out in the provinces, and the capital was 
the scene of intrigues, mainly directed against Haji Mirza 
Aghasi. On the advice of the British and Russian 
ministers he withdrew from the direction of affairs. 
Nasir-u-Din reached Teheran from Tabriz about six 
weeks after the decease of his father, and was crowned 
at midnight. 

Aiirza Taki Khan^ Amir-i-Nizam. — In Persia the 
Vizier almost invariably plays a preponderating r61e, and 
therefore at a time when it seemed possible that the 
country would break up the choice of a chief Minister 
by the new Shah was most important. Usually the post 
is filled by a man of humble origin, and to this rule Mirza 
Taki Khan was no exception. His father was cook, and 



afterwards steward, of the Kaim Makam, the first Vizier 
of Mohamed Shah. The son entered the service of the 
Persian Commander-in-Chief and went to St. Petersburg 
in his suite on the occasion of the embassy of Khusru 
Mirza, His promotion was rapid until he became Vizier 
of the army of Azerbaijan. Later on he represented 
Persia on the frontier commission which met at Erzeroum. 
Mirza Taki Khan's last appointment was that of Chief 
Officer of the Heir-Apparent, who, when he came to the 
throne, not unnaturally appointed him Chief Minister. 
He disarmed jealousy as far as possible by refusing the 
title of Sadr-i-Aazam^ or " Prime Minister," and assumed 
that oi Amir-i-Nizam^ or "Chief of the Army." 

The new Vizier was determined to remedy the various 
existing abuses, such as the sale of appointments and 
governorships, the enormous number of pensions granted 
to unworthy persons, and the robbery of the soldiers by 
their officers. At first he made little way, as few Persians 
could credit the existence of a minister who was both 
truthful and incorruptible. Gradually, however, the word 
was passed round that bribery and corruption were of no 
avail, and with some public opinion at his back he re- 
formed abuse after abuse, and placed the finances of the 
country on something resembling a business-like footing. 
Naturally his reforms raised up a host of enemies, among 
whom was the powerful Queen-mother, but the young 
Shah at first supported him loyally, and even gave him 
his own sister in marriage. 

The Rebellion of the Salar. — In Persia the Turks of 
Azerbaijan play the leading part. By custom the Heir- 
Apparent governs this province, and upon succeeding to 
the throne marches to Teheran surrounded by his staff of 
Turks. The army, too, and certainly the most trust- 
worthy portion of it, is mainly recruited in this province, 
which also supplies all the artillerymen. Consequently 
the Kajar dynasty came to be identified with " the Turks," 
and in many cases risings were inspired by hatred of these 
alien garrisons ; for the inhabitants of Azerbaijan speak 
little or no Persian. 

Towards the close of the reign of Mohamed Shah a 


young Kajar Khan known as the Salar, son of the Asaf- 
u-Dola, had rebelled. He had induced many of the 
chiefs of Khorasan to join him, but they deserted and he 
was forced to seek refuge among the Turkoman together 
with Jafar Kuli Khan, chief of Bujnurd. Shortly after- 
wards the two rebels returned to Khorasan and reoccupied 
Bujnurd. Again they were attacked and again they fled, 
Jafar Kuli Khan taking refuge on this occasion with Yar 
Mohamed Khan of Herat. 

The death of Mohamed Shah gave the Pretender his 
chance, and before long, owing to hatred of the Turks, 
almost all the chiefs of Khorasan had joined the young 
Khan, whose personality was attractive and courage un- 
doubted. Yar Mohamed Khan brought two thousand 
sowars to Meshed as a reinforcement for Hamza Mirza^ 
the Persian Governor-General, who had promised him 
twenty guns and two frontier posts in return for his 
assistance. But the forces of the Salar were too strong, 
and Meshed was evacuated, the Governor-General retiring 
in the direction of the Afghan frontier. Meanwhile a 
force of six thousand infantry under Sultan Murad Mirza 
reached Khorasan from Teheran and, mainly owing to 
the desertion of the Bujnurd chief, the Salar was driven 
to shut himself up in Meshed, where he was besieged for 
eighteen months. Finally the citizens of the Sacred City 
entered into negotiations with the besiegers, and sur- 
rendered Meshed and the Salar. The Pretender was 
tortured in barbarous fashion to make him reveal his 
treasure, and was then strangled. He was buried in the 
shrine of Khoja Rabi, close to the city. 

The Bab, — ^Among the latest religions to which Asia 
has given birth is that of the Bab. Its founder, Sayyid 
Ali Mohamed,^ born in 1820, was the son of a grocer of 
Shiraz, who evincing a religious disposition was sent to 
Kerbela, where he studied at the feet of celebrated doctors 
of law and gained distinction for the austerities he 
practised and for his love of learning. At the age of 

^ These sections are based on The Episode of the Bab, The New History of the Bab, and 
the article in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics : in each case the author is Prof. E. 
G. Browne. A brief account of the sect is also given in The Sword of Islam by Sir A. 


twenty-four he proclaimed himself the Bab^ or " Gate," 
intimating thereby that he was the " Gate " through which 
men might attain to knowledge of the Twelfth Imam. In 
the same year the Bab, as he was thenceforth termed, 
undertook the pilgrimage to Mecca and on returning by 
way of Bushire attracted considerable attention, followers 
gathering round him in large numbers. Encouraged by 
this support, he determined to convert his own city to his 
doctrines. In spite of the fact that his representative was 
bastinadoed and mutilated by the Governor — the same 
Husayn Khan who had been unsuccessful as an envoy 
to England — the Bab entered Shiraz. Confronted with 
the doctors of law, he declared that the mission of 
Mohamed was ended and that he himself had come to 
inaugurate a new era. The astonished assembly requested 
a written statement of his claims, but when this was 
presented it was found to be illegible. The Bab was 
consequently pronounced a madman and was beaten and 

His followers meanwhile increased in numbers and 
persecutions were instituted. An attack was made by 
the Shirazis on the house where the founder of the sect 
was imprisoned, but he escaped to Isfahan. After a while 
he was sent in captivity to Maku, in the extreme north- 
west corner of Persia, and thence to Chihrik, near Urumia, 
where he declared himself to be the Imam Mahdi. 

Finally he was ordered to execution at Tabriz. In 
the great square he received the volley of a firing party, 
and when the smoke rolled away he was not to be seen. 
The shots had cut his ropes and he had fled. Had he 
gained the town he might have escaped, and his religion 
would have been firmly established by the miracle — as it 
would have been deemed. Unfortunately for himself, he 
took refuge in the guard-room, where he was found. 
He was at once taken back to the square and shot. 

His Doctrines, — His doctrines, as expounded in the 
Bayan^ or " Book of Doctrine," are mystical and obscure. 
To quote Wollaston, " God is Eternal and Unapproach- 
able. All things come from Him and exist by Him. Man 
cannot approach Him except through some appointed 

From a photograph l<y Majoj- //'. R. Iuitt_\i.\ 


medium. So, distinct from God, there is a Primal Will 
which becomes incarnate in the prophets- This Primal 
Will spoke in the Bab, and will speak in ' him whom God 
shall manifest ' ; and after him through others, for there is 
no cessation in these manifestations." 

Browne points out that the doctrines " formed together 
a system bold, original and, to the Persian mind, singularly- 
attractive ; but, taken separately, there was hardly one of 
which he could claim to be the author, and not very many 
which did not mount to a remote antiquity." He goes 
on to point out that the title of Bab^ had been already 
assumed by the four intimates of the Twelfth Imam, and 
that other theories advanced were those of the Ismailis. 
Even the virtues of the number nineteen, the " Number 
of the Unity," were not new. 

I have made no special study of Babiism, as for 
an official this would be difficult, and my connexion with 
members of the sect has been principally confined to saving 
their lives in times of persecution. Students, however, 
notice that in its modern development there is an increas- 
ingly close connexion with Christian ideals and practices 
in Western Asia, whereas in Persia the converts remain 
practically Moslems of the Shia sect and find difficulty in 
assimilating the spirit of the new teaching. 

The Fortunes of the Babis, — Mirza Yahya, a youth of 
nineteen known as Subh-i-Ezel, or "Morning of Eternity," 
who had apparently been nominated by the Bab, succeeded 
him after his execution, and for some years (from 1 850-68) 
his position was undisputed. In 1852, owing to the per- 
secution referred to below, he fled to Baghdad, and ten 
years later he and his followers were transferred to 
Adrianople at the request of the Shah. 

The Subh-i-Ezel was too peace-loving and unworldly 
to control a community of enthusiasts, and gradually the 
direction of affairs fell entirely into the hands of his elder 
half-brother, the Baha UUa, or "Splendour of God." 

1 The Shaylchis of Kerman {Ten Thousand Miles^ etc.^ p. 196) claim for their leader 
that he is a Shia-i-Kamil, or " Perfect Shia," who serves as a " Channel of Grace " 
between the absent Imam and his church. I am afraid that I offended the late head of 
the Shaykhis, for whom I had great respect, by writing that the " Channel of Grace ' 
did not differ materially from the " Gate." 


For a while Baha UUa acted nominally on the instructions 
of the Subh-i-Ezelj but about 1866 he proclaimed himself 
as " Him whom God shall manifest " and called upon his 
brother to acknowledge his supreme authority. There 
was a desperate conflict between the two parties, but Baha 
UUa finally triumphed, only a faithful few clinging to his 
brother. In 1868 the Turkish Government decided to 
separate the rivals. Subh-i-Ezel was sent to Cyprus, 
where he died recently at a great age.^ Baha Ulla was 
interned at Acre, and, dying in 1892, was succeeded by 
his son. Abbas Effendi, although differences arose between 
the new leader and his younger brother, Mirza Mohamed 
Ali. The present head of the religion, who is generally 
known as Abdul Baha, or " The Slave of the Splendour," 
has created a much wider sphere for his activities : he 
preaches peace and goodwill among men in Europe and 
America and is more concerned with ethical than with 
metaphysical questions. 

Babi Plots and Risings^ 1850- 1852. — In 1850 the 
followers of the Bab attempted to seize the fanatical city 
of Yezd,^ but failed and fled to Kerman. A conspiracy was 
also formed to assassinate the Amir-i-Nizam^ but it was 
discovered and the conspirators were seized and executed. 
Of greater importance was the outbreak in the same year 
at Zanjan, a town famous for its goldsmiths* work, to 
the west of Kazvin. The chief Mulla had embraced the 
new doctrines, and he and his followers seized the city. 
Following in the footsteps of the Kharijites, they tortured 
to death all prisoners and defied a large Persian army, 
buoyed up with the hope that they would soon possess 
the entire world. The siege lasted throughout the 
summer, but finally their leader, Mulla Mohamed Ali, 
was wounded and died, and their stronghold was captured. 
Men, women, and children were massacred by the 

^ While holding the post of Consul at Kerman I had a correspondence with Subh-i- 
Ezel, whose daughter had claims on some property. He wrote that he renounced all 
claims j and it was impossible not to sympathize deeply with the unworldly old man, 
deserted by practically all his followers. 

2 In 1903 a terrible persecution arose out of a dispute in the bazaar. Any one who 
wished to settle accounts with an enemy denounced him as a Babi and was given a 
document signed by the Mujtahid ordering his death. Awful atrocities were committed. 

From a f>kotogrnf'k by Mt-ssrs. Lafayette. 



Two years later the life of the Shah was attempted by 
four Babis who posed as petitioners. He was wounded 
in the thigh, and the report was spread of his death. The 
punishment inflicted on. the conspirators was barbarous. 
At first ten prisoners were executed. In the case of two, 
lighted candles were stuck into them, and after suflFering 
this torture, they were hacked asunder with a hatchet. 
A reign of terror then ensued, and the Chief Minister, to 
avoid concentrating on himself the vengeance of the Babis, 
distributed the prisoners among the oflicers of the state,^ 
who did them to death. 

The Babis, including their famous poetess, the Kurrat- 
ul-Ayn, or " Coolness of the Eyes," displayed such bravery 
that they gained sympathy not only among their fellow- 
countrymen, but also among the Europeans resident in 
Teheran, and probably their heroic behaviour gained many 
converts to the new religion. 

Foundation of the Russian Naval Station at Ashurada^ 
1 840. — The peculiarity of the southern coast of the Caspian 
littoral consists in salt lagoons formed by narrow spits of 
land. That of Enzeli, the port of Resht, has already been 
referred to, and at Astrabad there is another. In this 
latter case the long narrow promontory runs out for thirty 
miles from the western coast and terminates in three small 
islands, the most easterly of which is close to the eastern 
coast of the Caspian Sea. In 1836 the Persian Govern- 
ment had applied to the Tsar for naval assistance against 
Turkoman pirates, who raided the coasts of Mazanderan 
with impunity. This was granted, and the Russians, 
realizing the advantage of founding a permanent naval 
station in the south-east corner of the Caspian, occupied 
the island of Ashurada^ about the year 1840. The 
Government of the Shah remonstrated against this seizure 
of Persian soil, but without success. The Russian 
Minister, without denying the validity of the Persian 
claim to the island, pointed out that pirates could be held 

^ The Shah's French doctor excused himself from hacking a Babi to pieces by saying 
that he killed too many men professionally to increase the number by homicide ! 

^ In 1893 I anchored off the island, and I was surprised at its smallness, which is 
such that during a storm spray sweeps right across it. It is notoriously unhealthy, and 
the life of the officials posted on it must be trying in the extreme. 


in check only by means of ships operating from a base, and 
that it would put an end to the beneficent naval activity 
of Russia if Ashurada were evacuated. As the Turkoman 
would have immediately recommenced their raids if the 
Russian ships had left, this argument would appear to 
have had weight. 

The Turkoman were by no means disposed to acquiesce 
tamely in a new order which prevented their raids. In 
1 8 5 1 they surprised the island and killed or carried off its 
garrison. It was given out — possibly in order to " save 
face '* — that these raiders had been assisted by Persia, and 
the Russian representative demanded the dismissal of the 
Shah's brother from the governorship of Mazanderan. 
This demand sorely tried the Amir-i-Nizam, who held it 
to be wholly unjustified, but after protesting strongly he 
wisely yielded to the Northern Power. 

The Fall of the Amir-i-Nizam^ 1851 — Nasir-u-Din 
showed remarkable loyalty to his great Minister ; but, as 
was only to be expected, the influence brought to bear, 
which pointed out his undoubted popularity among the 
soldiers, who knew that they owed their regular pay and 
clothing to him, at length aroused the fears of the Shah. 
Surrounding himself with his guards, he sent a messenger 
to his Minister to inform him that he was no longer Vizier, 
but only Commander of the army. This order was re- 
ceived with perfect submission, and Mirza Aga Khan, the 
Itimad-u-Dola, was appointed Sadr-i-Aazam. The fallen 
Amir-i-Nizam, but for ill-advised action on his behalf by 
the Russian Minister, who declared him protected by the 
Tsar and then withdrew from this position, might have 
weathered the storm. But this intervention and the 
intrigues of his enemies goaded the Shah to order him to 
retire to Kashan. There, watched by his devoted wife, he 
lived for two months, but it was then decided to execute him, 
and he was seized by a ruse. In the bath of the beautiful 
palace at Fin his veins were opened, and Persia's great 
Minister passed away. It is said that people have the 
rulers they deserve and, if so, Persia is to be sincerely 
pitied ; for she is ruled, as Europe was in medieval times, 
by officials whose main desire is to amass wealth per fas aut 


nefas. However this may be, the regrets which the 
traveller feels when visiting the charming gardens and 
pavilions of Fin are rendered more poignant when he 
reflects that, had this Minister governed for twenty years, 
he might have trained up some honest, capable men to 
succeed him. The death of the Amir-i-Nizam was, indeed, 
a calamity for Persia ; for it arrested the progress which 
had been so painfully achieved and, as the near future 
was to prove, it had an equally disastrous eflFect on her 
external relations. 

The Herat duestion^ 1 85 i-i 853. — Yar Mohamed Khan, 
who had successfully maintained the independence of 
Herat against Persia and the Barakzais of Kabul and 
Kandahar, died in 1851. He was succeeded by his son, 
Said Mohamed, a dissolute and almost imbecile youth, 
who, in order to strengthen his position at home, where 
his incapacity had raised up a host of enemies, opened up 
negotiations with Persia. This action affected the British 
Government, and two years later a treaty was imposed 
on Persia by the terms of which that power " engaged not 
to send troops on any account to the territory of Herat, 
excepting when troops from without attack the place." ^ 
Although Persia agreed to sign this treaty, there is no 
doubt that it was unpalatable to the Shah and was not 
\ ithout its influence on the events which followed. 

Russian Negotiations with Persia^ 1853-18 55. — In the 
autumn of 1 853 Prince Dolgoruki made secret proposals to 
the Shah that Persia should co-operate with Russia against 
Turkey. This was to be eff'ected in the first instance by 
collecting forces to threaten Erzeroum and Baghdad from 
Azerbaijan and Irak respectively, and then, if it appeared 
advisable, by declaring war and invading the Ottoman 
dominions from both these bases. It was agreed that, in 
the event of success, the territory seized by Persia should 
be either retained by that power or given back to Turkey 
upon payment. As a further inducement to accept this 
tempting oflFer, the Tsar promised, if war were declared, 
to remit the balance of the Turkomanchai indemnity ; and, 
if only a demonstration were made, the entire cost would 

1 AitchisorCs Treaties, No, XVII. p. 71. 
VOL. II 2 G 


be deducted from the debt. The Shah swallowed the bait 
and accepted these proposals, but the Russian Minister 
had to reckon with the Sadr-i-Aazam. That astute in- 
dividual pointed out that, if it was open to Persia to 
co-operate with Russia, it was equally open to join Turkey. 
He added that, if Great Britain and France intervened 
on her side, Persia might be able to sweep away the 
humiHating treaty of Turkomanchai and win back the lost 
provinces. The Shah was convinced by this reasoning, 
and, although orders had actually been issued for assembling 
forces in the provinces of Azerbaijan and Kermanshah, it 
was now decided to watch events and not to commit Persia 
definitely. This veering round on the part of the Shah 
deeply chagrined Prince Dolgoruki, who vented his wrath 
on the Sadr-i-Aazam. Nasir-u-Din made overtures to 
Great Britain and France, and was advised by those Powers, 
which had now joined in the Russo-Turkish war, to remain 
neutral. This counsel, which was most displeasing to its 
recipient and to the Court of Persia, caused the Sadr-i- 
Aazam to view the Russian proposals with less disfavour. 
Possibly he realized that it was dangerous to thwart Russia, 
and possibly also the lack of energy and vigour with which 
the war was waged by Great Britain, which did not make 
any use of her Indian army, influenced him in the same 

The Breach with Great Britain^ 1^55- — Persia was 
undoubtedly annoyed with Great Britain, but the trifling 
question which divided the two governments need not in 
itself have caused a rupture. It is not impossible that it 
was intentionally used for that purpose ; but it is equally 
possible that the breach to which it led was not foreseen 
or intended by the Persian Government. In 1854 the 
British Legation had engaged as Persian Secretary a 
certain Mirza Hashim Khan, who had formerly been in 
Persian employment but had quitted the service some 
years before. The Sadr-i-Aazam objected to his holding 
the post, and this point was yielded, as it was obviously 
undesirable to employ as a go-between an individual 
who was disliked by the Persian Minister. When the 
Sadr-i-Aazam first expressed his wishes on the subject, he 


suggested that Mirza Hashim might be sent to Shiraz as 
British Agent ; but when this appointment was actually 
made he declared that, inasmuch as the man had never 
obtained a formal discharge from the service of the Persian 
Government, he was ineligible to hold any post under 
the British, and that his acceptance of the Agency would 
not be permitted. This objection was frivolous, for it is 
well known that in Persia formal discharges are unheard 
of, and the Sadr-i-Aazam added insult by arresting and 
detaining Mirza Hashim's wife. Mr. Murray, the newly- 
arrived Minister, agreed in the interests of peace that, if 
the Mirza were granted a slightly better paid post by the 
Persian Government, and if his safety were guaranteed 
and his wife restored to him, he would be discharged 
from the British service. Not only was this most reason- 
able proposal refused, but the unscrupulous Minister stated 
openly that the British representative had retained the 
Mirza simply on account of his wife. An offensive letter 
followed, in which a threat was made that, if the British 
flag were struck, there would be certain unpleasant revela- 
tions. The Minister finally broke off relations, and at 
the end of 1855 quitted Teheran. Weeks, and then 
months, passed without any communication from England. 
The Sadr-i-Aazam consequently began to think that he 
had triumphed over Mr. Murray, and in his somewhat 
premature exultation he resolved to gratify the national 
wish to obtain possession of Herat. 

The Anglo -Afghan Alliance^ 1855. — The threatening 
attitude of Persia towards Afghanistan caused Dost 
Mohamed to embrace cordially the idea of an alliance 
with Great Britain. Early in 1855 Sir John Lawrence 
concluded a treaty of perpetual peace and friendship^ 
with the representative of our erstwhile enemy, thereby 
ending the twelve years of hostility and suspicion which 
the First Afghan War had bequeathed as a legacy. 

The Change of Rulers at Herat^ 1855. — Almost simul- 
taneously with the conclusion of this treaty, the situation 
in the Herat province underwent a radical change. Said 
Mohamed, who was totally unfitted to rule, was deposed 

1 The text is given in Rawlinson's v^jrl^, App. II. 


by his subjects in favour of Mohamed Yusuf, a Sadozai, 
who in order to avenge the death of Kamran Mirza put 
his rival to death. Mohamed Yusuf, who had long resided 
in exile at Meshed, was rightly regarded as a Persian 
nominee. Dost Mohamed, who by the recent death of 
Kuhendil Khan had gained Kandahar, was most anxious 
for Great Britain to take action in defence of her interests 
at Herat, and when this step was deprecated as premature 
he proposed himself to attack the city with an Afghan 

The Occupation of Herat by Persia^ 1856. — Meanwhile, 
as already stated, Persia was recklessly bent on breaking 
the treaty of 1853, and in the spring of 1856 a Persian 
army marched on Herat, where it was welcomed by 
Mohamed Yusuf. Shortly afterwards there was a rising 
against the overbearing Persians, and Mohamed Yusuf 
hoisted the British flag and appealed for aid to Dost 
Mohamed. As the result of a second rising, however, 
Mohamed Yusuf was seized and sent a prisoner to the 
Persian camp. His deputy, Isa Khan, held the city for 
some months, but in October, 1856, the science of a 
French engineer, M. Buhler, brought about its fall, and 
Persian possession of Herat was at last made good. 

The Second British Treaty with Dost Mohamed^ 1857. 
— Action was then taken by Great Britain against Persia in 
two ways, one of which was indirect ; for by a second treaty, 
concluded in January, 1857,^ Dost Mohamed was granted 
a subsidy of a lac of rupees per month during the con- 
tinuation of the war, on condition that the money was 
spent on his army. Muskets also were supplied to him 
in large numbers. Dost Mohamed, however, made no 
attack on Herat, and exercised little or no influence on 
the course of the war, which lasted for only a short 

British Operations against Persia^ 1856-18 57. — The 
direct action was a declaration of war, most reluctantly made, 
by Great Britain against Persia. Few wars have resembled 
that which followed. The usual question is how to injure 
an enemy most eff^ectively, but on this occasion the efforts 

^ The text is given in Rawlinson's work, A pp. III. 


of our statesmen were directed to securing the evacuation 
of Herat without inflicting a heavy blow on Persia. 
Alternative schemes presented themselves to the British 
military authorities. The Indian army might march 
direct on Herat with a friendly and allied Afghan army. 
Another plan, more difficult to execute, was to march on 
Herat from Bandar Abbas. Both would have involved 
immense eflFort and cost. It was finally decided to operate 
in the Persian Gulf and at Mohamera, and in the first 
instance to occupy the island of Kharak, which was seized 
on the 4th of December. Five days later a force dis- 
embarked near Bushire. The old Dutch fort of Reshire 
was held staunchly by some Tangistanis, and four British 
officers were killed while storming it. Bushire was then 
bombarded and surrendered.^ 

In January, 1 857, Sir James Outram assumed command 
and determined to attack a Persian force which was re- 
ported to be holding Borazjun, distant forty-six miles 
from Bushire in the direction of Shiraz. The strong 
British column found the formidable fort unoccupied, 
the enemy having fled panic-stricken without removing 
their munitions or camp equipage. Outram, being un- 
provided with transport, could not risk being entangled 
in the difficult defiles, and consequently, after blowing 
up the Persian magazine, began a night march back to 
Bushire. The Persian General, made aware of the re- 
tirement by the explosion of 40,000 lbs. of gunpowder, 
pursued the British force, which he overtook in the dark 
at Khushab and briskly attacked with artillery fire.^ At 
dawn the British cavalry and artillery advanced. The 
execution done by the artillery shook the Persian army, 
and the 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry charged a regiment 
and rode through it, sabring the men. Outram fell from 
his horse and was stunned, and this accident caused some 
delay in the advance of the British infantry, so that the 

1 A Persian friend, now over eighty years of age, has described to me how he fled 
from Bushire in charge of his mother and sisters, and was robbed by fugitive Persian 
soldiers at Ahmadi, the first stage out of the town. His father, the Karguzar^ 
or Foreign Oflfice Agent, was taken to India, where he appears to have been well 


- The best account of this action is given by the late General (then Lieut.) Ballard 

in Blackwood's Magazine for 1861. 


day was actually won by the cavalry and artillery. The 
Persians retreated in fair order and were not effectively 
pursued, owing to the smallness of the force of cavalry 
and its reckless and unnecessary use in the action. Had 
it been properly handled the defeat might have been 
converted into a rout. 

The next operation was directed against Mohamera. 
In March the expeditionary force re-embarked and made 
for the Shatt-ul-Arab. Mohamera, which had been made 
over to the Persians by the treaty of Erzeroum,^ had 
been strongly fortified with heavy batteries on both banks 
of the Karun. Outram's task was consequently difficult, 
and it appears to have been conducted with great skill. 
A mortar battery was prepared on a raft, and this was 
towed upstream by night to a point opposite the Persian 
battery on the right bank of the Karun, no attempt being 
made to prevent its passage. In the morning the fire 
from the steamers, aided by the mortar battery, silenced 
the forts, the transports were towed up into the Karun, 
and the troops were landed two miles above Mohamera. 
The Persians fled, leaving their guns, munitions, and camp 
behind them. Outram sent a flotilla up the Karun as far 
as Ahwaz, which was occupied, while the Persian army 
retreated. This concluded the operations. 

The Conclusion of Peace^ '^^Sl- — The Persian Govern- 
ment had sued for peace directly after the capture of 
Bushire, and the treaty had actually been signed before 
the Karun expedition took place, but in the absence of 
telegraphic communication news of the signature did not 
reach Outram in time. By the terms of the treaty, con- 
cluded in Paris, the Shah agreed to evacuate Afghanistan 
and to recognize its independence. He furthermore 
agreed that, in case of future disputes between the two 
Powers, recourse should be made to the good offices of 
Great Britain before resort to arms. A suitable apology 
was tendered to the British Envoy ; and, as Mirza 
Hashim had already made his peace and all imputations 
against his wife had been withdrawn, the original cause 
of the breach of relations had disappeared. The Persians 

1 For this treaty 'uide Chapter LXXIX. 






were amazed at British magnanimity in exacting no 
guarantee, no indemnity, and no concession ; and the 
joy of the Sadr-i-Aazam at the absence of any demand 
for his dismissal may be imagined.-^ 

From the British point of view relations with Persia 
became better after the war, which Persians seldom refer 
to with bitterness ; and, as the Indian Mutiny broke out 
a few weeks later, it was fortunate that no British troops 
were locked up in Persia or Afghanistan. 

The New Ruler of Herat, — The Persian Government, 
forewarned of the terms of the treaty, hastened to hand 
over Mohamed Yusuf to the relatives of Said Mohamed, 
by whom he was put to death. A Barakzai Sirdar^ 
Sultan Ahmad Khan, a refugee nephew and son-in-law of 
Dost Mohamed, was appointed Governor of Herat upon 
agreeing to cause the Khutba to be read in the name of 
the Shah. The young Sirdar hastened to his principality, 
where he arrived before the Persian General, a prince of 
the blood, had heard of the new agreement. The latter, 
roused from his slumbers by the intrusion of the 
importunate Afghan, promptly ordered him to be seized 
and bastinadoed. After this favourite punishment had 
been inflicted, matters were duly explained and the Sirdar 
was seated on the Herat throne. Consequendy, although 
Persia had been defeated, she was able both to keep the 
terms of the Treaty of Paris and yet to rule Herat 
through Sultan Ahmad Khan, who even visited Teheran 
and received a robe of honour from his gracious suzerain 
the Shah. It is diflScult to understand why the British 
Government did not insist on the handing over of the 
province to Dost Mohamed, and it looks as if the astute 
Persian got the better of the British negotiator. 

During this period of transition, a deputation of 
British oflicers from the Teheran mission was despatched 
to Herat ; but the Afghan Prince was not satisfied with 
receiving " the moral support of England's recognition 
and sympathy " and little else. A Russian mission under 

1 It is not generally known that we owe the invention of khaki to this war, the 
Persian word signifying " of dust," and so "dust-coloured." It appears that some 
Persian troops dressed in this dust-coloured uniform were almost invisible at a distance, 
and the Indian authorities accordingly adopted it. 


KhanikoiF, in 1858, was not . more successful. The 
Afghan remembered the punishment meted out to Dost 
Mohamed for receiving Vitkavich, and the Persian 
Government was by no means ready to see Russian in- 
fluence predominant at Herat. Consequently, Khanikoff^s 
mission was a decided failure. 

The Assertion of Persian Authority on the Persian Gulf 
Littoral, — It has been stated in this work more than once 
that Persia has never been a sea-power. Nadir Shah, as 
mentioned in Chapter LXXII., made an effort to assert 
his authority in the Persian Gulf, but, conscious of the 
difficulty of garrisoning its ports, he granted the district 
of Bandar Abbas and the islands of Hormuz and Kishm 
to the Shaykh of the Bani Maani tribe, in return for an 
annual tribute. Towards the end of the eighteenth 
century a fighting ruler of Oman, Sultan bin Ahmad,'^ 
engaged in foreign conquests. Chahbar was first reduced, 
and then Kishm, Hormuz, Bahrein, and Bandar Abbas. 
In 1798 Sultan bin Ahmad received from the Persian 
Government 2ifarman^ by the terms of which, in return 
for an annual payment of tomans 6000, he farmed the 
Bandar Abbas district. In the same year an agreement 
was made by this ruler with the English, who were 
permitted not only to reopen their factory at Bandar 
Abbas, but to garrison it with 700 sepoys. About this 
period the British naval station of Basidu (Bassadore), on 
the island of Kishm, was founded with the sanction of the 
ruler of Maskat : it still remains British property, although 
not at present garrisoned. 

In the middle of the nineteenth century the Persian 
Government decided to administer the ports directly, and 
during the absence of Sayyid Said of Maskat at Zanzibar 
expelled the Maskat Governor. An expedition from 
Maskat recaptured the ports ; but the Persians, having 
received large reinforcements, were too strong for Sayyid 
Said, who was hampered by a British interdict against 
movements of armed parties by sea. Finally, in 1856, 
peace was made, on the terms that the Imam of Maskat 
should farm the ports for twenty years on an increased 

^ Vide Badger's Imams of Oman ^ p. 226. 


rental of tomans 16,000 and that Hormuz and Kishm 
were to be regarded as Persian territory. At the present 
time the only possession left to Maskat outside Oman is 
the litde town of Gwadur, which is one of the ports of 
British Baluchistan. 

Nasir-u-Dxn Shah- 



From Merv, last home of the free-lance, the clansmen are scattering far, 
And the Turkmdn horses are harnessed to the guns of the Russian Czar. 

Sir Alfred Lyall. 

The Advance of Russia in Central Asia. — In the first 
half of the nineteenth century the most important events 
that affected Persia were the advance of Russia across the 
Caucasus and the annexation by that power, after two 
successful campaigns, of all the Persian provinces that lay 
to the north of the Aras. The latter half of the same 
century has witnessed a still greater advance of the 
northern power in Central Asia, ending in the marking 
out of a frontier line coterminous with that of Persia to 
the east of the Caspian Sea. I propose, therefore, to give 
some account of this extraordinary southern movement.^ 

The first Russian embassy to Khiva and Bokhara, 
conducted by Antony Jenkinson in the sixteenth century, 
has already been recorded in Chapter LXIL Early in 
the eighteenth century Peter the Great entered into 
relations with the Khanates of Khiva and Bokhara, and 
the ruler of the former state declared himself ready to 
accept Russian suzerainty in return for protection against 
Bokhara. In 1 7 1 5 a column under Count Bekovich was 

^ The authorities consulted (in addition to works already mentioned) include 
Narrati've of a Journey from Herat to Khiva^ 1856, by Major James Abbott; From 
Heraut to Ourenbourg^ by Capt. Sir R. Shakespear {Blackzvood's Magazine, June, 1842) j 
A Ride to Khi'ua, by Capt. F. Burnaby ; Life and Tranjeh, by Arminius Vamb^ry ; The 
Mer-v Oasis, by E. O'Donovan ; and Eastern Persia, by Sir F. Goldsmid. 



despatched on an exploring expedition with the consent 
of the Khan, but his death changed the entire position, 
and the Russian expedition was attacked by his successor 
and annihilated. No steps were taken to retrieve this 
disaster. During the years which followed Russi